Georgia Senate approves bill making Gwinnett school board elections non-partisan

Members of the Georgia State Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would change Gwinnett County Board of Education elections from partisan to non-partisan.

"The bottom line is partisanship should have no place on our school board and in our schools," said state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, the bill's primary sponsor.

Sen. Dixon said the issue became his top priority after the firing of longtime Gwinnett County Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks last year.

"We've got major issues like I said with the firing of Alvin Wilbanks and then also with the curriculum that some of the board members are trying to implement in our school system," Sen. Dixon explained.  "We've got to put an end to it and this is not an end-all-be-all, but it's a step in the right direction."


Democrats, however, argued that the move was because the board recently became majority-Democrat after years of Republican control.

They offered two amendments to the legislation. One would have changed all school board races to non-partisan statewide.

"Folks, if we're going to go after one county, let's make this for all counties," said state Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson.  

The other amendment would have put the issue on the ballot for Gwinnett voters to decide.  

"Let the people--the local people--the people of Gwinnett County make their own decision," said state Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta.

Democrats in the Gwinnett delegation also took issue with the process, saying that Sen. Dixon did not get their support before presenting the legislation as a general bill.  

In the end, the bill passed as-is. It must now go to the House for its approval.

Sen. Dixon said if the governor signs the bill before qualifying for this year's school board races begins in March, it would take effect this election cycle. If not, the races would become non-partisan starting in 2024.