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 American principles and laws governing instruction on race in school
- School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
- A brief primer on charter schools in America
- 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 American principles and laws governing instruction on race in schools
Ballotpedia is tracking race-related laws in school curricula and classrooms. Governors in states like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia have signed legislation or issued executive orders limiting how such topics can be taught in public schools.
Below, Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams write that such laws make it difficult for teachers to accurately educate students on American history, the end result of which is to create an ignorant populace. The authors also say such laws undermine due process and the free expression of ideas.
Joy Pullmann writes that teachings related to systemic racism, equity (which she contrasts with equality), and white privilege stem from critical race theory. Pullmann says such teachings are anti-American and that critical race theory is incompatible with free speech, freedom of association, and equal justice. Pullman says taxpayers should not have to support anti-American teachings in classrooms.
We Disagree on a Lot of Things. Except the Danger of Anti-Critical-Race-Theory Laws. | Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams, The New York Times
“Indeed, the very act of learning history in a free and multiethnic society is inescapably fraught. Any accurate teaching of any country’s history could make some of its citizens feel uncomfortable (or even guilty) about the past. To deny this necessary consequence of education is, to quote W.E.B. Du Bois, to transform ‘history into propaganda.’ What’s more, these laws even make it difficult to teach U.S. history in a way that would reveal well-documented ways in which past policy decisions, like redlining, have contributed to present-day racial wealth gaps. An education of this sort would be negligent, creating ignorant citizens who are unable to understand, for instance, the case for reparations — or the case against them. Because these laws often aim to protect the feelings of hypothetical children, they are dangerously imprecise. State governments exercise a high degree of lawful control over K-12 curriculum. But broad, vague laws violate due process and fundamental fairness because they don’t give the teachers fair warning of what’s prohibited. … Let’s not mince words about these laws. They are speech codes. They seek to change public education by banning the expression of ideas. Even if this censorship is legal in the narrow context of public primary and secondary education, it is antithetical to educating students in the culture of American free expression.”
It’s Critical Race Theory That Is Un-American, Not Laws Banning It | Joy Pullmann, The Federalist
“Without breaking a sweat, the New York Times has gone from insisting critical race theory doesn’t exist to arguing state legislatures must let public schools inflict it on kids. Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams claim in the Times that ‘Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws Are Un-American.’ This is exactly backwards. It’s teaching critical race theory that is un-American. … Critical theorists oppose free speech, the consent of the governed, freedom of association, and equal justice under the law. This is not about banning them from speaking, but in using representative government to deny them the privilege of taxpayer sinecures to help them foment America’s subversion and collapse. CRT teaches not only that people are defined by their skin color but also that paler skin is inherently evil. So this theory is used to justify the insistence that the United States is inherently evil, which is also patently anti-American. The concepts of ‘systemic racism,’ ‘white privilege,’ ‘anti-racism,’ and ‘equity [as opposed to equality]’ all stem from critical theory. Since this ideology is obviously false and toxic, state legislatures have moved to protect children from being taught it as gospel in the public education systems they directly oversee.”
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 Texas held general elections for school boards on May 7. Click here to see election results for all 47 districts within our coverage scope. Next issue, we’ll bring you a roundup of commentary and analysis about what the results mean for Texas public schools.
Districts in Nebraska held primary elections on May 10. Select a district below to read about those election results:
- Elkhorn Public Schools
- Millard Public Schools
- Norris School District 160
- Omaha Public Schools
- Ralston Public Schools
- Waverly School District 145
- Westside Community Schools (general election)
A primary for four seats on the Nebraska State Board of Education was also held May 10. Elizabeth Tegtmeier and incumbent Robin Stevens advanced to the general election. Based on unofficial returns, Tegtmeier received 62.4% of the vote, Stevens received 20.4%, and Pat Moore received 17.2%. Click here to see results.
Upcoming school board elections
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.
We’re covering the following school board elections on May 17.
- Guilford County Schools
- Johnston County Schools
- Union County Public Schools
- Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
- Durham Public Schools (general election)
We’re covering the following school board elections in Georgia on May 24.
- Cherokee County School District (primary)
- Clayton County Public Schools (primary)
- Cobb County School District (primary)
- Forsyth County Schools (primary)
- DeKalb County School District (general)
- Fulton County Schools (general)
- Gwinnett County Public Schools (general)
- Henry County Schools (general)
- Muscogee County School District (general)
- Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (general)
School board candidates per seat up for election
Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. We view candidates per seat as a proxy for the level of conflict and dissension around school board governance. Periods with more conflict tend to correlate with more candidates running for seats on school boards. Click here to see historical data on this subject.
In 2022, 2.51 candidates are running for each seat in the 353 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed.
Charter schools in America: some basics
Minnesota was the first state to pass a law authorizing charter schools in 1991. Charter schools are a category of tuition-free, publicly-funded, independently run schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a charter school is “a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract—a charter—with the state, district, or other entity. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter.”
Charter schools generally receive a percentage of the per-pupil funds from the state and local school districts for operational costs based on enrollment. In most states, charter schools do not receive funds for facilities or start-up costs, and usually rely to some extent on private donations. The federal government also provides special grants for charter schools.
Since the 1990s, charter schools have expanded to 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a partner to state policymakers by providing personalized support and helping education leaders come together to learn from one another.”
Only Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont do not have laws authorizing charter schools. West Virginia became the 45th state to authorize charter schools in 2019, when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed House Bill 206. The state’s first charter schools were approved in November 2021.
Kentucky authorizes charter schools but does not currently have any in operation. Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed House Bill 520 in 2017, authorizing charter schools. However, a permanent funding mechanism was never established. In late March 2022, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 9, which would have authorized federal, state, and local funding for charter schools. However, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the bill on April 7, saying he believed the funding mechanism was unconstitutional and that he did not support charter schools.
The number of charter schools per state varies widely, according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which describes itself as the “the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement.” In 2019, California had the most charter schools in the country, with 1,336, followed by Texas and Florida. Twenty-four states had fewer than 100 charter schools.
Charter school enrollment has grown steadily over time. In 2000, the NCES estimated that 448,343 students were enrolled in charter schools. By the 2019-2020 school year, the most recent year for which data are available, that number had climbed to nearly three and a half million students. The percentage of public school students enrolled in charter schools is around 7%.
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.
So far in 2022, 1,606 candidates have completed our Candidate Connection survey. 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!