On the issues
In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.
The debate over which books to include in school libraries
One topic of debate in recent months has been over the types of books schools should include in their libraries and curricula.
Below, Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, wrote that recent state legislation to remove books from school libraries and curricula was part of a larger push to uproot American institutions and norms. Nossel compared the movement to book burnings and bans in other countries. Nossel said parents should trust the judgment of teachers and librarians.
Nicole Russell, an opinion contributor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote that removing books from school libraries and curricula was not the same as book banning or censorship. Russell said parents should have input on what materials their children can access in schools but should accept that other parents in the community—as well as educators, and community members—do not all share the same values. Russell cautioned that parents who want certain books removed from libraries should not be surprised when opposing sides take similar actions.
Op-Ed: The recent onslaught of book bans is a strategic part of wider attacks on our democracy | Suzanne Nossel, Los Angeles Times
“Book bans and curriculum debates in the United States have flared up episodically over time, as rattled communities have sought to pump the brakes on social change in areas including evolutionary science, sexuality and the embrace of ethnic differences. Although some of the arguments being made today — about protecting innocent students from corrupting ideas — echo traditional motives for book banning, the current crusade has a more sinister cast. … The blitz on books and curricula is one flank in a wider onslaught on institutions and norms, aligned with part of our country’s resistance to the political and social implications that come with demographic and ideological shifts. Holding fast to democracy means holding fast to books, defending the judgment of teachers and librarians and vigorously upholding the rights to read and learn.”
School book wars aren’t about ‘censorship.’ The fight is over whose values will prevail | Nicole Russell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“True censorship would make the novels in question unavailable, out of print. Now, when a book is tossed from a school library, it skyrockets to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. … If the book is available elsewhere, that is not censorship or even really book banning. The heart of the issue is: Who gets to tell kids what to learn? Librarians? Teachers? Parents? Many public school administrators and teachers believe that they know better than parents — sometimes they’ll even admit it. Public school administrators, board members and staff shouldn’t pretend to be daft: When parents speak up about library or syllabus content, they aren’t suggesting they know a thing about senior-level chemistry. But they do care about the ethical or moral nature of the content to which their child is exposed. Public schools are taxpayer-subsidized, and 91 percent of America’s kids go to public schools. Of course parents should have a voice in what their children learn.”
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.
Election results from the past week
Districts in Alaska, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wisconsin held general school board elections on April 5. Click the links below to view results from each district.
States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days
- Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland
- Cecil County Public Schools, Maryland
- Frederick County Public Schools, Maryland
- Harford County Public Schools, Maryland
- Howard County Public Schools, Maryland
- Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland
- Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland
Upcoming school board elections
Two California school districts are holding special elections on April 12. A New Jersey district is holding a general election on April 19. Districts in Tennessee are holding primary elections on May 3.
Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.
- Special general election for Fresno Unified Board of Education Trustee Area 5
- Special general election for West Park Elementary School District Board of Trustees
- Clarksville-Montgomery County School System
- Hamilton County School District
- Knox County School District
- Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
- Rutherford County Schools
- Shelby County Schools
- Williamson County Schools
School board candidates per seat up for election
For the 239 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.25 candidates are running for each seat.
Help us expand our school board coverage—join the Ballotpedia Society today!
Local elections have big implications in the lives of voters. These elections are when we vote for the people who make rulings in family court cases, oversee the way elections are run, and make decisions in our school districts. This is why it’s so important that Americans have a resource they can trust to help them make the most informed choices for their families and communities.
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Judge removes and then reinstates five members of a Pennsylvania school board
The debate over mandating masks in schools took a turn recently in West Chester, Pa., when a judge ordered the five Democratic members of a local school board to be removed from office—only to reinstate them a few days later.
On March 30, Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge William Mahon ruled the five Democratic members of the West Chester Area School District School Board were to be removed from office. Mahon’s ruling came in response to a petition to remove members of the school board who voted for a mandatory mask policy. Beth Ann Rosica, a parent in the West Chester School District, filed the petition on Feb. 13. Rosica is also the executive director of Back to School PA, a PAC that “focuses on addressing the unintended consequences of prolonged school closures that resulted in learning loss, mental health, and behavioral issues.”
Mahon said he issued his decision to remove the school board members because the school district’s attorneys failed to respond to Rosica’s petition by a March 15 deadline. The district’s attorneys, however, asked Mahon to reconsider, arguing the actual date for a formal response was April 4. On April 1, Mahon agreed to reverse his decision, reinstated the board members, and allowed the case to move forward.
In her petition to remove the members, Rosica cited a 1949 Pennsylvania statute that allows any 10 taxpayers in a school district to file a petition in a county court to remove school board directors if any “(1) fail to organize as hereafter provided, or (2) refuse or neglect to perform any duty imposed upon it by the provisions of this act relating to school districts, or (3) being a party to a joint board agreement refuse or neglect to perform any duty imposed upon it by the provisions of this act relating to joint boards or by the joint board agreement.”
In a press release when she first filed her petition, Rosica said: “Parents all over Chester County are exacerbated over the current masking policies of their school districts. Several parents have taken their frustrations to the next level by filing petitions with county court to recall those board members who voted to mask children.”
Rosica said the West Chester Area School District acted illegally when it maintained a mask mandate after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the statewide school mask requirement on Dec. 10.
Shannon Grady, a parent in the nearby Downingtown Area School District, filed a similar petition in the same court on the same day.
Rosica named Sue Tiernan, the president of the school board, and fellow board members Joyce Chester, Karen Herrmann, Kate Shaw, and Daryl Durnell in the petition. All five members are Democrats. Before the November 2021 general election, Republicans controlled the school board 5-4. However, Democrats won three board seats in the general election, bringing the partisan balance to 6-3, with Democrats in control. We identified this election in our 2021 report on conflicts in school board elections.
In a response motion filed April 4, the District’s attorney said: “While certain members of the public may disagree with the board’s decision to follow federal, state and local public health guidance calling for the wearing of face coverings inside the school district’s building, such disagreement cannot serve as the basis for this court to remove any members of the board.”
Both sides have 45 days to gather evidence and file for a hearing before Mahon.
Since the start of the pandemic, 35 states have required masks in schools at some point. Click here to learn more about school responses to the pandemic.
Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district
Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from local school board candidates in Texas:
First up: Jane Lindell Hughes, who is running for the Alamo Heights Independent School District school board to represent Place 2.
Next is Pam Johnson, who is for the Lewisville Independent School District Board of Trustees to represent Place 3/
Both elections are on May 7.
Here’s how Hughes responded to the question “What is the primary job of a school board member in your view?”
“The Board serves as a bridge between the community and the school administration. Constituents presumably elect candidates whose academic expectations and understanding of the role of the school closely resembles their own. The job of the board is to then select or continue to employ the superintendent who is charged with implementing and overseeing policies and practices consistent with that academic and role philosophy. The secondary, and one could argue equally important role, is to ensure that the school district maintains fiscally sound practices in all areas.”
Click here to read the rest of Hughes’ answers.
Here’s how Johnson responded to the question “What is the primary job of a school board member in your view?”
“The School Board must recruit and retain excellent teachers, ensure conservative stewardship over budgets to protect our local citizen taxpayers, and preserve educational excellence and traditional values.”
Click here to read the rest of Johnson’s answers.
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.
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!