COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s a position you see on the ballot year after year, but now — more than ever — people are tossing their hats into the ring for one special seat at election time. 

Statewide there’s been a big increase in candidate numbers when it comes to school board seats, compared against years past.  

Rick Lewis — the Executive Director and CEO of the Ohio School Boards Association — says compared to 2017 they’re seeing a 50 percent increase in candidacy statewide.  

He says it’s not just the increase that’s unusual. There are stark differences when it comes to campaigns as well.  

“For years I think some of our school board members largest complaints were that nobody came to our meetings, nobody cared, and now we’re seeing just the opposite,” Lewis said.  

He added now more than ever people are looking at school boards, their leaders, and what comes out of those meetings.  

“The issues have become much, much more polarized — there are emotions and passions running very strong,” he said. Masks and coronavirus policies are gaining attention and traction at meetings.  

Here in Ohio there are 2,628 candidates seeking seats. That’s a big jump from 2017 when there were 1,749 people running.  

“I can’t remember a year like this year where we’re seeing so much campaign literature being labeled ‘Vote Republican’, ‘Vote Democrat’ with a donkey or an elephant on the card,” Lewis explained.  

Locally some communities will vote on several candidates for a limited number of seats.  

For example, the race for Hilliard City school board has 8 candidates and 3 seats open. The ballot for Dublin school board also has 3 seats open again with 8 candidates.  

NBC4 asked people if school board is something they’re focusing on this election day. 

Bill Weethee said: “I think people are starting to realize what’s going on behind the scenes and taking an interest in helping making decisions and direct the future.” 

Rick Lewis believes these races should continue to stay non-partisan.

“We are seeing the introduction of politics more and more into education and that is a shame because education should not be subject to politics.”