How COVID, race, and gender affected the April 5 school board races in Missouri

Ballotpedia identified 37 school districts in Missouri that held elections on April 5, where candidates took a stance on three conflict issues: race in education, COVID responses, or sex and gender in schools. That’s 7.1% of the 518 school districts in the state, not all of which held elections on April 5.

There were 77 seats up for election in these 37 districts.

Of the 77 winners in the April 5 conflict races:

  • 19 opposed at least one of these three issues (25%);
  • 43 supported at least one and opposed none (56%); and,
  • 15 had unclear stances on all three issues (20%)

Ballotpedia researched the winning candidates’ stances on these three conflict issues using media reporting, op-eds, candidate websites, campaign ads, and more. After this, each winning candidate was labeled as either supporting or opposing. In cases where candidate stances were not readily apparent, they were labeled unclear.

  • Race in education: candidates supporting this issue tend to support expanding the use of curricula related to race and district-specific equity or diversity plans. Candidates opposing this issue tend to oppose these efforts.
  • Responses to the coronavirus pandemic: candidates supporting this issue tend to support or previously supported mask or vaccine requirements and social distancing or distance learning related to the pandemic. Candidates opposing this issue tend to oppose these measures their districts took or considered in response to the pandemic.
  • Sex and gender in schools: candidates supporting this issue tend to support expanding sexual education curricula or the use of gender-neutral facilities and learning materials. Candidates opposing this issue tend to oppose these efforts.

Ballotpedia previously conducted a study of election results in school board conflict races on Nov. 2, 2021, which included 310 seats up for election across 16 other states. In that analysis, 30% of winners (94) had opposing stances, 56% (173) had supporting stances, and 14% (43) had unclear stances.

In total, 44 incumbents filed for re-election in these 37 districts, leaving 33 seats open, guaranteed to be won by newcomers and representing 43% of the seats up for election. This is a larger percentage of open seats than Ballotpedia typically tracks among the country’s largest school districts.

Incumbents running for re-election in these 37 districts lost to challengers at an increased rate compared to Ballotpedia’s regular coverage scope.

Over the past four election cycles, from 2018 to 2021, incumbents lost 18% of races where they filed for re-election.

In the April 5 conflict races, 27% of incumbents (12) lost re-election.

Ballotpedia’s coverage of school board conflicts relies on identifying candidate messages, reader submissions, or third-party reporting on these issues. The map below shows counties where Missouri’s 37 conflict races were located.

Additional reading: