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 more than 13,000 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 training and licensing K-12 teachers
- School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
- In your district: reader replies on changes in public education
- Twenty-eight percent of school board races this year are uncontested, up from 2021
- An overview of conflicts in Florida’s Aug. 24 school board elections
- Extracurricular: education news from around the web
- Candidate Connection survey
- School board candidates per seat up for election
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On the issues: The debate over training and licensing K-12 teachers
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.
At a private event with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said, “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” In response, discussions arose related to teacher licensing and training requirements and how they affect K-12 education.
JC Bowman writes that Tennessee’s existing licensing system works well to make sure teachers are qualified. Bowman says parents rely on the state to make sure educators are sufficiently prepared to teach their children. He says states can trust established colleges of education to train teachers and prepare them for licensing and classroom instruction, making them an important partner in the qualification process.
Larry Arnn writes that existing colleges of education do not adequately prepare educators for classroom instruction and promote bureaucratic control over K-12 education. Arnn says colleges of education promote instruction methods over content and reduce teaching to the level of technical science. He says parents would rather have the flexibility to pick schools and teachers than rely on the state to tell them who can teach their children.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn disparaged teachers. Bill Lee should not tolerate that. | Opinion | JC Bowman, The Tennessean
“Teaching is a science, an art, and a craft. It is not for everyone. Most people do not want the responsibility, stress, low salary, or long hours. Parents do not just want anyone instructing their child. … Colleges of education are vital for teacher preparation, so every child has an effective teacher in the classroom. They are key partners in developing and strengthening K–12 education. They must identify and recruit future teachers and graduate them as certified teachers to meet the licensure requirements set by the state. We need them now more than ever because veteran teachers are quitting the profession. Teachers must pass an entrance requirement, maintain a certain GPA, and pass an exit exam to become certified. Licensure is the function of the state and the gatekeeper to employment. … Educators or colleges of education are not the problems. They certainly are not ‘dumb.’ Teachers contend with an array of student challenges — substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition and food insecurity, lack of access to health care, unsafe neighborhoods, and schools with limited resources.”
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn: Why I defend education schools criticism | Opinion | Larry Arnn, The Tennessean
“I’ve made similar critiques of the education bureaucracy my entire career. This does not contradict my deep and abiding affection for teachers. … Dumb can mean ‘unintelligent,’ which I did not mean. Dumb also means ‘ill-conceived’ or ‘misdirected,’ which is, sadly, a fitting description for many education schools today. Professors of college and graduate education programs primarily teach methods. To be sure, methods are important in almost any human activity, but they are seldom the chief object. … Many education schools elevate methods over content as a way for a few to control many. They believe they can engineer society by ‘scientific’ criteria, thereby effectively reducing children to mere subjects of ongoing social experiments. More importantly, the education bureaucracy has controlled America’s schools for too long. Consider the current attack to deprive parents of charter school options — depriving them of the educational opportunities they desire and need for their children. … The solution is clear: recognize that the sovereign location in education is the local school, parents, and teachers, and not the district or the state. Give parents and teachers a choice.”
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.
Upcoming school board elections
We’re covering school board primary elections in 24 districts on Aug. 23. In Florida, state law requires that all school districts hold even-year nonpartisan school board primaries 11 weeks before the general election on a Tuesday. State law requires school districts to hold nonpartisan general elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year, that means school districts are holding primaries on Aug. 23 and general elections Nov. 8.
Click here for a full list of districts we’re covering.
We’re covering school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats are up for election, including three at-large seats that are up in special elections.
In your district: reader replies on changes in public education
We recently asked readers the following question about the biggest changes they’ve seen in public education.
“What is the biggest change you’ve seen in your time working in or observing the public education system?”
Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses.
A retired teacher and candidate for school board from Virginia wrote:
“Implementation of PBIS [Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports] and restorative justice thereby taking away teacher autonomy in their classrooms. Also, it releases students from accountability and consequences.”
A school board member from Colorado wrote:
“Parental response to teachers. They are the enemy if something needs to be addressed, whether it is behavior, or learning. Parents used to partner with teachers for the benefit of their child’s education.”
A public school teacher from Virginia wrote:
“The stress levels have risen fairly dramatically. With COVID, virtual learning, and behavior issues with kids returning to school, it has been a very difficult time for educators.”
A school board member from New Jersey wrote:
“I feel there needs to be more emphasis placed on reading and math, as well as teaching more to the trades such as welding, auto mechanics, etc. Too many students are graduating and are not proficient in reading and math. Reading opens the world and its possibilities to children. As a board member, I am happy to see parents becoming more involved in their child’s educational process.”
Thank you to everyone who replied. We’ll be back in September with a new question, and we look forward to reading your responses!
Twenty-eight percent of school board races this year are uncontested, up from 2021
Since 2018, we’ve found that, on average, between 24% and 40% of school board elections within our coverage scope were uncontested—meaning no more than one candidate ran for a given seat—each year. Today, we’ll look at the percentage of uncontested school board elections this year and see how it stacks up to school board elections in previous years.
For districts within our scope where filing deadlines have passed and we’ve processed the relevant data, 28% of school board races are uncontested. That’s down from 2018, 2019, and 2020. But there are more uncontested seats this year than in 2021, when 24% of school board races in our scope were uncontested.
That figure will likely change before the end of the year as filing deadlines pass and we finish gathering candidate filing information.
In 2020, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kentucky had the highest percentage of uncontested school board elections. In each case, more than 50% of all the school board elections we covered were uncontested. In 2020, School districts in our scope in 11 states had no uncontested school board races.
This year, states in which more than 50% of school board races within our scope are uncontested are Alabama (66%) and New York (57%). In Texas, 39% of school board races are uncontested, followed by Nebraska (36%), California (35%), and Utah (35%). On the low end, school districts in eight states—including Idaho, Missouri, and Nevada—have no uncontested school board races. In Florida, 5% of school board races are uncontested, while 17% of school board races in Kentucky and Wisconsin uncontested.
We’ll bring you an update on these figures later this year once all school districts within our scope have completed general and primary elections.
To see more statistics on school board elections, click here.
An overview of conflicts in Florida’s Aug. 24 school board elections
We’ve talked before in this newsletters about our project tracking conflicts in school board elections. Since 2021, we’ve identified 977 school districts in 44 states where candidates took a stance on race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and/or sex and gender in schools.
Florida school districts are holding general elections Aug. 24. Let’s take a look at the districts where we’ve identified candidates who have taken a position on one or more of the above issues.
Overall, we’ve identified school board races in 36 Florida school districts where race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, or sex and gender in schools have been issues in a school board election.
- Candidates have taken a stance on race in education/critical race theory in races in 34 school districts.
- Candidates have taken a stance on responses to the coronavirus pandemic in 25 districts.
- Candidates have taken a stance on sex and gender in schools in 32 districts.
The districts range in size and location. The list includes Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the state’s largest district when measured by student enrollment.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has endorsed two candidates running for Miami-Dade County Public Schools—Roberto Alonso and Monica Colucci. On his campaign website, Alonso says he opposes “attempts to impose Critical Race Theory and other extreme liberal agendas in K-12.” Alonso is running for the District 4 seat against Maribel Balbin and Kevin Menendez Macki. Colucci says she opposes “Critical Race Theory and other extreme liberal agendas that harm our kids.” Collucci is running for the District 8 seat against incumbent Marta Pérez. Perez was first elected in 1997.
You can read more about school board elections in Miami-Dade County Public Schools here.
Other districts we’ve identified as part of our conflicts research include:
- Pinellas County Schools
- Broward County Public Schools
- Polk County Public Schools
- Seminole County Public Schools
Click here to learn more about our research on conflicts in school board elections.
Extracurricular: education news from around the web
This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us!
- Oklahoma invests $5M in online math tutoring program | K-12 Dive
- When Kids Go Back to School This Fall, Pandemic-Era Free Lunch Will Be Gone | Bloomberg
- US has 300,000 teacher, school staff vacancies, NEA President Rebecca Pringle says | ABC News
- Push to revamp public schools sparks split in education community, ‘Time to raise the bar’ | The Advocate
- With new guidance, CDC ends test-to-stay for schools and relaxes COVID rules | NPR
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 appear 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!