Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #4

Welcome to Hall Pass. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s 14,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: teachers unions and school policies 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Why some states are rethinking participation in the National School Board Association
  • Candidate Connection survey

On the issues

In each edition, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on one of the issues school members consider when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

The debate over how teachers unions affect schools and policies

School districts throughout the country negotiate contracts with teachers unions. Debates about the impact of unions in school districts are a perennial feature of the policy landscape surrounding school governance.

Below, Glenn Sacks, a social studies teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District high school, writes that public teachers unions advocate for policies that protect teachers’ time from activities like yard duty and supervising school events. Sacks says this gives teachers more time to focus on students. 

Edward Ring, a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, writes that public teachers unions tend to advocate for inefficient work rules, negotiate unsustainable pay and benefits with politicians they help elect, and protect bad teachers. Ring also says unions protect what he calls a left-wing agenda in classrooms. The California Policy Center describes itself as “an educational non-profit working for the prosperity of all Californians by eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom.”

Why teachers unions are good for your children | Glenn Sacks, Los Angeles Daily News

“The one group that is aware of and fights to defend teachers’ ability to provide students with a good education is teachers’ unions. Teachers’ unions help children’s education because they protect a precious resource — teachers’ time. At nonunion schools teachers are often weighed down with unnecessary labor such as yard duty and supervising school events. These duties reduce teachers’ ability to spend time helping students and preparing for classes.”

Why teachers unions are the worst of the worst | Edward Ring, California Policy Center

“The teachers unions are guilty of all the problems common to all public sector unions. They, too, have negotiated unsustainable rates of pay and benefits. They, too, elect their own bosses, negotiate inefficient work rules, have an insatiable need for more public funds, and protect incompetent members. But the teachers union is worse than all other public sector unions for one reason that eclipses all others: Their agenda is negatively affecting how we socialize and educate our children, the next generation of Americans.”

School board update: filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications

Ballotpedia has historically covered school board elections in about 500 of the country’s largest districts. We’re gradually expanding the number we cover with our eye on all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

School board filing deadlines in the next 30 days 

Here are upcoming filing deadlines for districts we’re covering.  

March 11

March 18

March 22

Upcoming school board elections

We’re covering one school board recall election in the next 30 days. The March 29 recall is against Tim Stentiford, one of the 12 members of the Regional School Unit 21 school board in Maine. Recall supporters listed a loss of teachers in the district, increased spending in human resources, and the lack of a school board curriculum committee as reasons for their campaign.

Schools in the following states will hold general school board elections on April 5:

  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin 

We’ll bring you more on those elections in future editions. 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 144 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.3 candidates are running for each seat, the same number of candidates per seat we tracked on March 2.

Twenty states end participation in National School Board Association

Since October 2021, 20 state school board associations have terminated or suspended their membership in the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Founded in 1940, the NSBA states that it uses federal advocacy, legal advocacy, and public engagement to shape “federal education policy, raises public awareness of critical issues such as school safety and champions the mission of public education to prepare our nation’s youth for the future.” 

The boards’ actions followed the NSBA’s Sept. 29, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden (D) in which the organization described “threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators” and called for “federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”

On Oct. 22, the NSBA retracted the letter, writing: “As you all know, there has been extensive media and other attention recently around our letter to President Biden regarding threats and acts of violence against school board members. … On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter. To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials and educators, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue. However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”

Several boards of directors have cited the NSBA’s letter to Biden directly as a reason for withdrawing from the NSBA. For example, in a letter to members, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association wrote, “The most recent national controversy surrounding a letter to President Biden suggesting that some parents should be considered domestic terrorists was the final straw”.

​​Others cited governance issues more generally, such as the Louisiana School Boards Association, whose Board of Directors said they had considered withdrawing from the NSBA before the letter because of “ongoing concerns over management, leadership and the general direction of their organization.”

On February 7, the NSBA announced it was “launching an independent comprehensive review to fully understand the circumstances around the letter sent to the Biden administration.” To read the related memo, click here

The table below lists each state organization that has withdrawn from the NSBA by date. Click here to read each organization’s statement of withdrawal. 

Five affiliated state associations—Mississippi School Boards Association, Montana School Boards Association, North Carolina School Boards Association, Virginia School Boards Association—announced they intend on withdrawing from the NSBA in June 2022.  

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Everyone deserves to know their candidates. However, we know it can be hard for voters to find information about their candidates, especially for local offices such as school boards. That’s why we created Candidate Connection—a survey designed to help candidates tell voters about their campaigns, their issues, and so much more. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains over 30 questions, and you can choose the ones you feel will best represent your views to voters. If you complete the survey, a box with your answers will display on your Ballotpedia profile. Your responses will also populate the information that appears in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

And if you’re not running for school board, but there is an election in your community this year, share the link with the candidates and urge them to take the survey!