Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #48

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 teaching gun safety in schools  
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • An early look at some 2024 education-related ballot measures we’re following   
  • 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 teaching gun safety in schools

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.

On Jan. 6, 2023, a six-year-old brought a gun to school in Newport News, Va., and shot a teacher. The incident has engendered discussion and debate over the usefulness of school gun safety classes. Last year, the Arizona House passed a bill that would have required a gun safety course for children between grades 6-12. That bill died in the state Senate. 

Lindsay Karp writes that gun safety courses in school could better prepare children to handle situations in which they accidentally find a firearm. Karp says she would prefer to live in a world with no guns but that children should learn to protect themselves and live safely in a world with guns. 

Laurie Roberts writes that gun safety education is an ineffective way to keep kids safe. She says children should not have to learn to protect themselves and that such courses could make guns seem more appealing to young kids. Roberts also says she thinks such proposals distract from legislation proposing stricter requirements for securing guns at home. 

I was against gun safety classes in schools. Newport News, Va., shooting changed my mind. | Lindsay Karp, USA Today

“[W]hile we hope our children won’t use drugs or have sex at a young age, we still provide them with the knowledge needed to make these safe decisions – in fact, we educate them in hopes they’ll reach an understanding on their own. Why should gun safety be any different?  …  A bill requiring gun safety education in schools will educate children, like the 6-year-old in Newport News, living with loaded guns – those who might not be receiving the necessary information at home. This education may help to decrease accidental injuries and death by household firearms, and it could prepare children to better handle the emergency of a gun finding its way into the classroom. … If we won’t put our children first, we need to teach them to put themselves first.”

Republicans want to mandate that the NRA teach your kids about gun safety | Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic

“You know what might actually help keep kids safe? A law that makes it a crime to leave your loaded gun lying around so that your child or the neighbor’s child can pick it up and shoot themselves or someone else. … Instead, we have Nguyen’s bill that does nothing but add NRA marketing material to the state school curriculum under the guise of gun safety. I particularly like the student reward stickers, with a picture of Eddie and his “Wing Team” just above that all-important NRA. In fact, the Eddie Eagle program was created in the late 1980s by an NRA lobbyist who was looking to stymie child safety legislation. The best way to keep kids safe, apparently, is not to require adults to act responsibly but to put the onus on kids to protect themselves.”

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 the more than 13,000 districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week

Ballotpedia covered a special school board election to fill a vacancy on the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees in South Carolina on Feb. 7. As of this writing, Daron Lee Calhoun II leads Lee Runyon 418 votes to 377. 

Upcoming school board elections

Ballotpedia is covering all school board primary elections in Oklahoma on Feb. 14. General elections are on April 4. 

Some of the districts holding elections include:

On Feb. 21, Ballotpedia will cover all school board primaries in Wisconsin

Some of the districts holding elections include:

Click here to learn more about 2023 school board elections.

An early look at some 2024 education-related ballot measures we’re following 

Voters shape education policy in this country in a number of ways, and one of the most direct is through the ballot measure process. Since 2000, voters have decided an average of a little under 10 statewide education-related measures—including initiatives and referendums—each year on topics ranging from funding and teacher pay to state board of education governance and more.

We covered the seven measures voters decided on Nov. 8, 2022, in an earlier edition of this newsletter

There are no education-related measures certified for the ballot in 2023. Historically, odd-numbered years have seen fewer ballot measures. Between 2001 and 2021, voters decided about three and a half education-related measures in elections held in odd-numbered years. 

Although we’re only a month and a few days into 2023, we’re currently tracking six measures in five states that could appear on the ballot in 2024. These measures are in different stages of the initiative process, and it’s likely that at least some of them will fail to qualify for the ballot. 

California Right to Education Amendment

Status: Cleared for signature gathering

The initiative would amend the California Constitution to guarantee that students have a “right to a high-quality public education that provides them with the skills necessary to fully participate in the economy, our democracy, and our society.”

Supporters filed the initiative on Oct. 27, 2022. The California Attorney General’s office approved the petition for signature gathering on Jan. 3, 2023. To qualify for the ballot, supporters must collect 874,641 valid signatures. The deadline for signature verification is 131 days before the general election, which is June 27, 2024. 

Florida Prayer in Schools Initiative

Status: Cleared for signature gathering

The initiative would amend Section 3 of Article I of the Florida Constitution. Section 3 of the state constitution says: “There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace or safety. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

The initiative would add the following to Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution: “The First Amendment protects the right to free speech respecting religion from the Laws and Constitution. Prayer in schools supports freedom of speech. Prayer is not an expression of religion or denomination. Prayer represents unity, an awakening, a release of oneself, and spiritual consciousness. Prayer is a devotion necessary to advance our children. Church and State’s practices include family values and morals, culture, and diversity for all people.”

Supporters need 891,589 valid signatures. The deadline for signature verification is Feb. 1, 2024. As election officials have 30 days to check signatures, petitions should be submitted at least one month before the verification deadline.

Nevada Remove Constitutional Status of Board of Regents Amendment

Status: Proposed

The amendment would remove the constitutional status of the Board of Regents—which governs, controls, and manages the state universities in Nevada—allowing the state legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities.

Nevada is one of 13 states with a two-session requirement for legislatively referred constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot (in four of those states, including Nevada, an amendment that receives a supermajority in the first round can bypass the second).

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR 7). The Senate approved it on April 13, 2021, by a vote of 20-0 with one excused. On May 18, 2021, the Assembly passed SJR 7 by a vote of 30-11 with one excused. 

The Nevada State Legislature will need to pass the amendment again in 2023 for the measure to appear on the ballot.  

Historically, the two-session requirement has made it less likely an amendment will appear on the ballot. Between 2010 and 2022, 37.7% of constitutional amendments in the 13 states that require two legislative sessions or a supermajority did not make the ballot because they failed during the second session. 

Oregon Right of Parents to Choose Public School Based on Residency Amendment

Status: Pending official review

This initiative, which supporters filed on May 25, 2022, would amend Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution to provide that parents may select any K-12 public school statewide with admission priority based on residency and no other criteria or preferences. The proposed language reads:

“As a method of voluntary school choice for a Child, a Parent whose Child is not then subject to expulsion or suspension in the Child’s current school has the right throughout each School Year to choose any Public School within the state for the Parent’s Child to attend, for the appropriate grade level. Except as provided below, the Chosen School District shall then admit a Child for enrollment at the Chosen School under this Section.”

To certify the initiative for the ballot, supporters have until July 5, 2024, to submit 156,231 valid signatures. 

Oregon School Choice Account Amendment

Status: Pending official review

The initiative would amend Article VIII of the Oregon Constitution to establish taxpayer-funded accounts that parents or guardians could use to fund their child’s education at a private school or home school program. The amendment would create School Choice Funds, which would receive 80% of the average per pupil amount allocated by the state legislature or 80% of $9,500, whichever is greater. 

Sponsors filed the first version of the initiative on Sept. 29, 2021. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office rejected the first version on Jan. 19, 2022. Supporters filed a second version on May 25, 2022. 

If the Secretary of State were to approve the second version for signature gathering, supporters have until July 5, 2024, to submit 156,231 valid signatures.

Oklahoma State Question 830, Expanded Use of Permanent School Fund Money Initiative

Status: Pending official review

The ballot measure would amend Section 2, Article 11 of the Oklahoma Constitution to allow, subject to advice and consent of Indian tribes and Nations on treaty land, “the permanent school fund to be used for early childhood care and education for all persons from childbirth to kindergarten, regardless, of income level, and universal basic per capita income for all persons with incomes under the federal poverty level, upon valid claim, using procedures as established by appropriate State officials, which shall not be taxed.”

Supporters submitted the initiative on Jan. 13, 2023. If approved, supporters would have 90 days to submit 172,993 signatures. 

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 looking at responses from two Milwaukee, Wis., school board candidates running in April 4, 2023 elections. 

Shandowlyon Hendricks Reaves is running in the general election for Milwaukee Board of School Directors District 1. Missy Zombor is running in the general election for Milwaukee Board of School Directors At-large. 

Here’s how Hendricks Reaves answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”

“Shandowlyon’s 20-point education policy, BILL OF RIGHTS FOR STUDENTS, is a plan to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for high post-secondary outcomes. Her priorities are: 1. Student achievement-based teaching & learning 2. Achievement & belief-based district-wide culture 3. High-quality staff, teachers & leadership aligned with the district vision 4. Operations & systems drive learning & district-wide culture Each student is guaranteed inalienable rights to a premier education; experiences that result in achievement at the student’s maximum potential; liberty to form opinions and make decisions based on truth and fact, not fantasies and fallacies.”

Click here to read the rest of Hendricks Reaves’ answers.

Here’s how Zombor answered the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”

“I am passionate about defending and improving public education. I want to ensure that every MPS student from K4-12 grade has the opportunity to attend a school filled with joy. Schools with outdoor spaces for kids to run and laugh. Schools where students receive individual attention in a comfortable and safe classroom. Schools that promote a curriculum that gives students the knowledge and power to question the world in a way that helps uproot the causes of racism, the climate crisis, and economic inequality.”

Click here to read the rest of Zombor’s answers.