Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #11

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. 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: The debate over social-emotional learning in public schools  
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election preview
  • Candidate Connection survey

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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 social-emotional learning in public schools: 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) refers to an educational method that promotes the development of social and emotional skills through school curricula. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), social-emotional learning “refers to a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect student success in school and life,” including “critical thinking, emotion management, conflict resolution, decision making, teamwork.” How SEL is used varies.

Below, Jane Robbins at The Federalist writes that SEL deemphasizes the cultivation of knowledge and allows teachers to influence students to adopt attitudes and beliefs that are consistent with political correctness. Robbins says SEL promotes the idea that equality is racist and forces students to adopt anti-racist ideology, which she says identifies white children as oppressors. 

Sandra Washburn with the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning at Indiana University writes that SEL can help equip students with social and emotional skills that improve educational, relational, and mental health outcomes. Washburn says SEL promotes equity, which she says is a goal of education generally. 

How ‘Socio-Emotional Learning’ Became Another Vehicle For Anti-White Racism In Schools | Jane Robbins, The Federalist

“Parents normally send their children to school (or park them at the computer for pretend school) to learn academic disciplines, including English, math, science, and history. But in most public and some private schools, more and more time is being redirected from academic instruction to ‘social-emotional learning’ (SEL)—the cultivation not of knowledge but of the ‘correct’ attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and behaviors. … To some extent, socio-emotional learning has always been a vehicle for introducing leftist propaganda in the classroom. … Until now, CASEL downplayed the leftist slant of socio-emotional learning, presenting schools and parents instead with a sanitized picture of teaching children compassion and responsibility. But in the era of Black Lives Matter, the mask is off.”

Op-Ed: SEL offers academic and emotional gains. Banning it is about politics not education | Sandra Washburn, Indy Star

“SEL is the process though which individuals develop knowledge and utilize skills in order to: establish a positive identity; manage emotions; understand and emphasize [sic] with others; create and maintain healthy relationships; set and achieve goals; and make just and caring decisions. … The main objection to CASEL appears to be their vision that SEL is a tool to leverage equity, as if leveraging equity is a dastardly deed. Isn’t education itself a lever for equity? … Attending to the emotional well-being of our young people is imperative for schools as well as for families. It is not an either/or proposition, but a collective responsibility. Social Emotional Learning is our best primary prevention for suicide and mental health struggles.”

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 Tennessee held primary elections on May 3. Click on each district to see election results. General elections are scheduled for Aug. 4.  

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

May 16

The filing deadline is for primary elections in Florida that will occur on Aug. 23. 

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Texas are holding general elections on May 7. Districts in Nebraska are holding primary and general elections on May 10. Districts in North Carolina are holding primary and general elections on May 17. Districts in Georgia are holding primary and general elections on May 24.

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.


Click here to learn about each of the races in the 47 districts within our coverage holding elections on May 7.


We’re covering the following school board elections in Nebraska on May 10.

North Carolina

We’re covering the following school board elections on May 17.


We’re covering the following school board elections in Georgia on May 24. 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 353 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.43 candidates are running for each seat.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election preview

This year, seven states, including California, are holding elections for state superintendent of schools. California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election is June 7. Let’s take a look at that race.

California uses a top-two primary system in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot.  The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 8 general election. The superintendent oversees the California Department of Education and executes the California Board of Education’s policies. The superintendent also manages the operational side of the school system. 

Seven candidates are on the primary ballot: incumbent Tony Thurmond, Marco Amaral, Joseph Campbell, Lance Christensen, Jim Gibson, Ainye Long, and George Yang

Thurmond, a former California Assembly member, was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018. Thurmond defeated Marshall Tuck 50.9% to 49.1%.

In its 2022 election guide, The Bakersfield Californian said “The focus of this race will be on educational achievement issues, including parental choice,” and said Christensen would “most effectively advance the debate.” 

Christensen, a former California Senate legislative consultant, is the Vice President of Education Policy & Government Affairs at the California Policy Center, an educational non-profit. The group says it is “working for the prosperity of all Californians by eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom.”  

In his campaign announcement, Christensen said, “Where was Tony Thurmond during the shutdowns? He should have been fighting the governor every day. I would have been in front of the press daily, pushing back and encouraging individual School District Superintendents to push back on the shutdowns.” Christensen completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and listed the following three key campaign messages: 

  • “Lance is committed to adding parents into the education equation. 
  • Reorient all decision-making in the office and department towards the goal of what’s good for the kids and parents and commit to performing a “Kids First” audit of the Education Code. 
  • Protect the rights and autonomy of charter schools, private schools and home schools.

The California Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) have endorsed Christensen. 

Thurmond is running on providing more resources to support student mental health, closing pandemic-driven learning gaps, and free universal preschool. On his campaign website, Thurmond said he has “kept his promise from four years ago to prioritize public education with record investments in our school system.” The California Democratic Party, the California Federation of Teachers, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have endorsed Thurmond.

The 2018 election was the most expensive race for the California Superintendent of Public Instruction on record, with satellite spendingincluding by teachers unions, who backed Thurmond, and charter school supporters, who backed Tuck—reaching more than $50,000,000. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Dan Walters wrote the election was “a battle between two Democrats but one that encapsulates the political war over California education that has been raging for years between the education establishment, particularly the California Teachers Association, and an ‘Equity Coalition’ of civil rights groups and Tuck’s fellow reform advocates.”

Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming are also holding elections for superintendent of schools in 2022. The position of superintendent is a state executive office that exists in all 50 states. The superintendent is elected in 12 states and appointed in 38. Read more about the office here.  

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

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!