Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #28

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 Minneapolis’ collective bargaining agreement 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • How DeSantis and Crist-backed school board candidates fared in Florida’s Aug. 23 school board elections
  • DeSantis removes four Broward County School Board members
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

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.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) struck a collective bargaining agreement with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) on March 25, 2022. The agreement requires the school district to base any financially motivated layoffs on teacher seniority, with newer teachers getting laid off first. The provision included an exemption from the seniority layoff rule for what the agreement called underrepresented teachers.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes that the layoff policy discriminates based on race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Editorial Board says all hiring and firing decisions should be based on performance and job qualifications and not on race or seniority.

Michael Harriot, a writer and cultural critic, writes that MPS’ hiring policy historically favored white teachers and that a policy firing teachers based on seniority would cause more minority teachers to lose their jobs before white teachers. Harriot says the white teachers in the district are not equipped to assist minority students, so they would also be fired first in a merit-based system.

Minneapolis Schools Discriminate by Race | The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

“School districts ought to hire and fire based on job qualifications and performance, which would prevent an unintended disparate impact on minorities. But unions oppose personnel decisions based on merit because this could undermine labor solidarity. Minneapolis is instead discriminating by race. … [The agreement] states that the exception to the senior layoff rule is intended to ‘remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination’ and that ‘past discrimination by the district disproportionately impacted the hiring of underrepresented teachers.’ If the district is sued, it will have to substantiate this claim. It may also be hoping to dodge strict scrutiny legal review by not explicitly referring to racial classifications. The undefined term “underrepresented” could be interpreted to include low-income teachers. But what matters is how the rule is applied. … When institutions favor certain racial groups, they discriminate against individuals of other groups. … The Minneapolis teachers contract underscores why the [U.S. Supreme Court] Justices need to state clearly that racial preferences are always constitutionally forbidden.”

The whitelash behind Minneapolis’ plan to fire white teachers, explained | Michael Harriot, TheGrio

“Somehow people who lack critical thinking skills and seasoning [sic] experience can be beguiled into believing a contract that was collectively bargained by a majority-white coalition is ‘anti-white.’ Perhaps they are willing to ignore the ‘past discrimination’ part of the story. … For most of its existence, the district’s hiring policy not only favored white teachers, but it did so to the detriment of its non-white students. But, for some reason, Fox News pundits and right-wing propagandists don’t seem interested in this part of the story. … Most of MPS’s students are non-white. Most of its teachers are white. According to the district’s own data, most of the non-white students are lagging behind white students. And, according to people who know things, students of color do better when they are taught by educators of color. So, I’m not assuming that the white teachers are the worst teachers; I am assuming that most of the teachers are less equipped to teach most of the students. … To become more equitable for its students, the cohort of teachers must be more diverse. To become financially solvent, the district must cut staff. The only path to better schools, more educated children and a financially stable district is to fire white teachers.”

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

Idaho

We’re covering school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats are up for election, including special elections for three at-large seats. 

How school board candidates endorsed by DeSantis and Crist fared in Florida’s Aug. 23 school board elections

On Aug. 23, Florida’s 69 school districts held school board primary elections. The Republican and Democratic nominees for governor—Gov. Ron Desantis (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D)—endorsed candidates.  

DeSantis endorsed 30 candidates. Twenty-five of the candidates won outright or advanced to a Nov. 8 general election, an 83% success rate. Crist endorsed seven school board candidates, five of whom won outright or advanced to the general—a 71% success rate.  

Politico’s Andrew Atterbury wrote, “Florida Republicans, led by DeSantis, poured thousands of dollars into school board races this year and offered up endorsements in historically nonpartisan races to push their education policies at the local level. Democrats followed suit by endorsing candidates of their own, setting off a new elections battleground.” 

DeSantis said the candidates “are committed to the student-first principles of the DeSantis Education Agenda.” The DeSantis Education Agenda is a 10-point plan. The plan’s planks include “Keep Schools Open and Reject Lockdowns,” “Ensure Parental Rights in Education and Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools,” and “Increase Teacher Pay.” 

Crist said he endorsed candidates who are “keeping politics out of the classroom, protecting our students’ freedom to learn, and truly defending parental rights.”

Crist backed candidates in Lee, Marion, Polk, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. Both DeSantis and Crist backed candidates in Hillsborough. DeSantis endorsed incumbent Stacy Hahn, who won her election for District 2 outright. Crist backed District 6 At-Large incumbent Karen Perez, who also won her election outright.

In our Aug. 17 edition, we looked at some of the Florida races we identified as part of our project on conflicts in school board elections. That project tracks elections where candidates take a stance on race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and/or sex and gender in schools. 

Our list included elections for seats on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools school board, the state’s largest district. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) endorsed two candidates—Roberto Alonso (District 4) and Monica Colucci (District 8). Alonso defeated two candidates to win his election outright with 57.3% of the vote. Colucci defeated incumbent Marta Pérez with 53.7%. Perez held the seat since 1998. Pérez voted to approve a mask mandate the district implemented in August 2021. The wins give conservative board members a majority on the school board

DeSantis-backed candidates won outright in Sarasota and Duval counties. Those school boards will now also have a conservative majority. 

We’ll bring you more coverage of the general elections in November. Meanwhile, click here to see election results for school districts within our scope. 

DeSantis removes four Broward County School Board members

On Aug. 26, DeSantis removed four members of the Broward County School Board for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, and incompetence,” following a grand jury’s 2021 recommendations. After the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, DeSantis requested the state Supreme Court convene the grand jury to investigate the management of an ongoing safety and capital improvement program first approved in 2014.

DeSantis removed Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson and appointed replacements. The appointed members were sworn in Aug. 30.

The grand jury’s report found that five board members—Good, Korn, Murray, Levinson, and Rosalind Osgood—mismanaged the STAR program, an $800 million bond apportioned for safety and renovations. The jury recommended DeSantis remove the board members. The program was originally scheduled for completion in 2021 but is not expected to be completed until 2025.

Osgood, a state senator, no longer serves on the Broward County School Board. Osgood released a statement, saying, “It is my personal belief that unless someone commits a crime, no one has the right to remove them because then they go against the voters’ choice. And no crime was committed here or we would have been arrested.”

Stand with Parkland, a group of parents whose children were victims in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, released a statement: “We applaud the Governor’s action to follow the recommendation from Florida’s 20th Statewide Grand Jury and remove the Broward School Board members — citing their gross-negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, and shear incompetence caused the mishandling of many of the aspects of the tragic date that took the lives of so many at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said, “I do not support taking any elected officials out, especially ones who did not commit any crime. It’s politics over people, that’s what it is in a nutshell.”

DeSantis appointed Torey Alston, Kevin Tynan, Ryan Reiter, and Nandy Serrano. All are registered Republicans. 

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 general election for Chandler Unified School District Governing Board At-large in Arizona. Incumbent Lara Bruner is running for re-election against challenger Kurt Rohrs. 

Two seats on the board are up for election. 

Here’s how Bruner responded to the question “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • “All CUSD children deserve excellent teachers dedicated to continual growth through district and outside professional development opportunities.
  • “All CUSD children deserve evidence-based curricula at the appropriate level of rigor, whether they perform at grade level, need interventions, or require acceleration and enrichment.
  • “All CUSD children deserve physically and emotionally safe schools where they can thrive.”

Click here to read the rest of Bruners’ responses. 

Here’s how Rohrs responded to the question “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • “Education Fundamentals should be the primary focus of Curriculum. Achieve Minimum 50% Reading and Math proficiency at all schools.
  • “Political and Social Activism has no place in our classrooms. Don’t use Classrooms to promote personal agendas.
  • Let Teachers Teach. Provide a safe, supportive, and secure environment for teachers to practice their craft.”

Click here to read the rest of Rohrs’ responses. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains more than 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!

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. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.48 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,277 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.48 candidates per seat is 24% more than in 2020.




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