Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #38

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over government-funded school lunches 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • The seven education-related ballot measures voters decided on Nov. 8
  • Conflict election results (updated)
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over government-funded school lunches

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.

Colorado passed a ballot measure—discussed in our review of education-related measures below—on Nov. 8 to expand government-funded lunches to all public school students. President Joe Biden (D) also proposed expanding funding for school lunches in his National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Sept. 28.

Baylen Linnekin writes that children from poorer families already receive discounted or free school meals. He says expanding government-funded school meals would not reduce food insecurity because it would mainly offer food to children from wealthier families. Linnekin also says the National School Lunch Program provides substandard food that even food insecure children will throw out, wasting money and food.

William Lambers writes that expanding the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs to make school lunches free for all children would reduce food insecurity and help families. Lambers says universal school lunches would save governments time and money that are spent determining which children are eligible for free or discounted school meals and prevent low-income students from falling through cracks in the bureaucratic eligibility determination process.

There’s No Good Reason To Expand Government-Funded School Lunches | Baylen Linnekin, Reason

“During most of the Covid pandemic, the USDA made universal free lunches available to public school systems around the country. Even after that lapsed, many if not most kids in Colorado (and every other state) whose families can’t afford to provide them with lunches or lunch money were already eligible to receive free- or reduced-price school lunches under the federal government’s National School Lunch Program. … I have difficulty understanding how giving free food to kids whose parents are millionaires helps students facing real food insecurity. And I’m not alone. Earlier this year, a longtime school lunchroom worker in Michigan called universal school meals “a ‘waste’ because, too often, students whose parents could afford to pay for their meals would throw it in the trash.” But even hungry kids toss their government-funded school lunches in the rubbish bin. … Indeed, the National School Lunch Program is a disaster. It wastes untold quantities of money and food.”

William Lambers: We need to be passionate about free school meals | William Lambers, The Hartford Courant

“We need to be passionate about free school meals for every child, instead of just accepting the status quo of underfunded and incomplete school meal programs. … At home in America we should make the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs free to all children. This would eliminate the costly and time consuming administrative work of determining who is eligible for the free or reduced price meals. Providing free meals to all would prevent any needy children potentially falling through the crack of bureaucracy and not receiving meals. Providing free meals for all school children would give America’s families a big boost. We give corporations plenty of perks, why not families too. … If every child were to receive free meals, we would improve the health of the country and reduce poverty.”

The seven education-related ballot measures voters decided on Nov. 8

Education was on the ballot in seven states on Nov. 8, with voters deciding measures related to college tuition, school meals, legislative oversight of state board rules, and more. In September, we previewed those seven education-related ballot measures. Here’s how each of those measures fared. 

Voters approved measures in six states and rejected one in West Virginia. There were a total of 132 statewide measures on the ballot on Nov. 8.

All results below are unofficial.

New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 1, Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution for Early Childhood Education Amendment

Voters approved this amendment 70.35% to 29.66%.

Constitutional Amendment 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would increase the disbursements from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for education from 5% to 6.25%. Forty percent of the increase goes to public education, while 60% goes to a new spending category—early childhood education.

Congress will need to approve part of the amendment because federal law established the fund but did not include early childhood education as a spending category. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) introduced bills in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, respectively, in December 2021 to release the funds. Heinrich’s bill passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting action before the Senate. 

According to Source New Mexico’s Shaun Griswold, “The fund is derived from 13 million acres of land grants from the United States under the Ferguson Act of 1898 and the Enabling Act of 1910. Revenue on these lands from sources like mineral exploration and from oil and gas industries — booming industries in New Mexico — are placed in a permanent endowment that is then invested by the State Investment Council.”

Supporters said the fund allows New Mexico to increase education funding without raising taxes. Opponents said the amendment would decrease the fund’s value and lower future returns, resulting in reduced future education funding.   

Arizona Proposition 308, In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Residents Measure 

Voters approved this proposition 51.23% to 48.77%. 

Proposition 308 is a legislatively referred state statute that allows non-citizen students, except those considered to be nonresident aliens under federal law, to receive in-state college tuition under certain conditions. Under the law, non-citizen students can receive in-state college when a student (a) attended school in Arizona for at least two years and (b) graduated from a public school, private school, or homeschool in Arizona. Proposition 308 repeals provisions of Proposition 300, which voters approved in 2006. Proposition 300 said non-citizens could not receive certain state-subsidized services, benefits, or financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

Supporters of the measure said non-citizen students who were brought to America as children shouldn’t be punished for circumstances outside of their control and allowing them to receive in-state tuition would help Arizona retain talent. Opponents said the measure would increase costs for taxpayers and provide an unearned benefit to non-citizens.   

Massachusetts Question 1, Tax on Income Above $1 Million for Education and Transportation Amendment 

Voters approved Question 1—52.02% to 47.98%.

Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Question 1 creates an additional 4% tax on income above $1 million to fund public education, roads and bridges, and public transportation. The tax is in addition to the state’s 5% flat income tax, for a total tax rate of 9% on income above $1 million. 

Supporters said the additional tax revenue will fund investments in public education and transportation that will benefit all residents, especially low-income communities. Opponents said the tax will encourage wealthy individuals and families to leave Massachusetts, leaving the state with less revenue and fewer jobs.  

West Virginia Amendment 4, Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Amendment

Voters rejected this amendment 57.86% to 42.14%.

This legislatively referred constitutional amendment would have required the State Board of Education to submit its rules or policies to the Legislature for approval, amendment, or rejection. The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. The governor appoints board members and the Senate confirms them.

Supporters said the amendment would increase accountability, allowing legislators, who answer to voters, to have a say in the education rules and policies that affect taxpayers. Opponents said the amendment would further politicize education and lead to instability, since legislators are up for election every two years.

Colorado Reduce Income Tax Deduction Amounts to Fund School Meals Program Measure

Voters approved this measure 56.75% to 43.25%.

This legislatively referred state statute will reduce income tax deduction amounts for those earning $300,000 or more from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers. The measure also creates and funds the Healthy School Meals for All Program to provide free school meals to all Colorado public school students, provide local food purchasing grants, and increase wages for employees who prepare and serve food.

Supporters said all children, regardless of family income, should have access to nutritional food. Opponents said taxpayers should not pay for meals for kids from affluent families.  

California Proposition 28, Art and Music K-12 Education Funding Initiative

Voters approved this initiative 64.45% to 35.55%.

This initiated state statute requires a minimum source of annual funding for arts education programs for K-12 public and charter schools. The annual minimum amount will be equal to at least 1% of the total state and local revenues that local education agencies received under 1988’s Proposition 98 during the previous fiscal year. 

Supporters said many schools lack dedicated arts and music teachers and programs and that such programs are important for students seeking jobs in entertainment and technology. Opponents said the initiative would divert funding from other academic areas. 

Idaho Income and Corporate Tax Changes and Education Funding Advisory Question

This was a non-binding question, meaning the outcome did not result in a new, changed, repealed, or rejected law or constitutional amendment. Voters approved the advisory question 79.86% to 20.14%. The advisory question is a provision of House Bill 1 (HB1). In September, during a special session, the Idaho Legislature passed HB1, creating a flat rate tax on income and corporate tax rate and allocating $410 million of the state’s sales tax revenue annually to the public school income fund. HB1 is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 3, 2023. The advisory question allowed voters to indicate their support or opposition to the tax changes and education funding enacted by the state legislature.

Click here to read more about education-related ballot measures.

Conflict election results (updated)

Last week, we brought you an update on the 1,800 Nov. 8 races we tracked in 561 school districts across 26 states where candidates took a stance on at least one of three topics—race in education, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and sex and gender in schools.

We’ve been researching the winning candidates’ stances on those areas. We’ve now completed research on 1,454, or 81%, of the 1,800 winning candidates. Here’s an update on the results:

In the June 1, 2022, edition of this newsletter, we looked at conflict election results in the April 5 school board primaries in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. We also previously published an analysis of elections on Nov. 2, 2021. Those results are below:

You can learn more about our project tracking conflict elections here.

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

Many school districts in Louisiana will hold runoff/general elections on Dec. 10. In Louisiana, all candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Today, we’re featuring survey responses from two candidates from the Pelican State. 

Incumbent Michael Gaudet (R) and Cathy Carmichael (D) are on the ballot in the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board District 7 general election. Carmichael completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Michael Pedalino (R) and Lauren Jewett (D) are on the ballot in the Jefferson Parish School Board District 6 general election. Jewett completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Here’s how Carmichael responded to the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Represent students, not special interests.
  • Value our teachers and staff.
  • Hold the superintendent accountable for his actions.”

Click here to read the rest of Carmichael’s responses. 

Here’s an excerpt from Jewett’s response to the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

“Mental Health of Students, Teachers, and School Staff: Student achievement and learning progress are big priorities, but they must be addressed alongside the mental and emotional health of students and teachers. Our students and educators have continued to push through extraordinary and uncertain circumstances both with COVID and Hurricane Ida as well as witness events in our constantly evolving world. I will advocate for proper and adequate resources such as more wrap-around supports and social workers/guidance counselors so that our schools can address and respond to trauma and facilitate ongoing healing.”

Click here to read the rest of Jewett’s responses. 

If there is a school board election in your community, you can share the link with candidates and urge them to take the survey!