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 classical education
- In your district: Learning loss since the pandemic
- Share candidate endorsements with us!
- School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
- Here’s what noteworthy presidential candidates are saying about K-12 education
- A look at the upcoming school board recall in Richland, Wash.
- Extracurricular: education news from around the web
- Candidate Connection survey
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On the issues: The debate over classical education
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.
Do classical education curricula and approaches to learning—which tend to emphasize ancient Greek and Roman materials—benefit students, especially in public schools? We featured a different set of perspectives on this debate in an earlier edition.
Rich Lowry writes that the study of classical materials benefits students and teaches critical thinking skills and self-criticism. Lowry says classical materials have contributed significantly to modern culture, politics, and laws in ways other ancient materials have not. He says it is a mistake to reject the positive contributions of classical materials based on the repressive and non-inclusionary natures of their authors or Greek and Roman societies broadly.
Dani Bostic writes that classical curricula place too much emphasis on the positive influences of ancient Greek and Roman thought on modern culture and ignore negative influences. Bostic also says that classical materials focus too heavily on ancient European contributions to civilization and ignore the cultural, scientific, and political developments of other cultures. Bostic says that Western focus promotes white supremacy.
Are the Classics Racist? | Rich Lowry, National Review
“There’s quite a simple reason, though, that Greece and Rome have been subjects of study and fascination for so long — their cultural, political, and legal contributions are so vast and enduring. The Greeks gave us the example — flawed and incomplete to be sure — of democracy, and the Roman stamp is still discernible on our legal system and institutions. Western thought and literature have proceeded throughout their history in dialogue with the classics, constantly interacting with the arguments, themes, and characters of those long-ago forebears. This isn’t true of other ancient societies. Of course, the Greeks and Romans were blinkered, exclusionary, repressive, and violent, but who wasn’t? Where in the ancient world did slavery not exist? What society afforded women equal status with men? Where did any ruler respect the dignity of all people? A key difference between the Greeks and Romans and the rest was that their writers critiqued and lampooned their own societies. This willingness to engage in self-criticism became one of the hallmarks, and strengths, of Western culture. The critics give the Greeks and the Romans the same treatment as the American project, ignoring what was exceptional about them for a monomaniacal focus on their failings, even if the failings were commonplace everywhere else.”
The Classical Roots of White Supremacy | Dani Bostic, Learning for Justice
“Ancient Greece and Rome were not monolithic in terms of culture, and their geography extended outside of Europe. Students benefit from a broader conception of classics that challenges assumptions about Eurocentrism. … But educators can’t just rethink content. We also need to teach students to be critical consumers of what they’re learning beyond our classes, where students often learn about the influence of Greco-Roman antiquity on the United States as indisputably and exclusively positive. … So students learn about the classical roots of American government without learning about the use of classics to justify the institution of slavery. They learn about democracy in Athens but nothing of how the founders’ specious establishment of ancient Greece and Rome as the cultural forebears of American identity worked to erase the Indigenous nations already established on this land. Students deserve to know that the version of classics too often taught in today’s schools is essentially the same as the one crafted by white Americans over centuries to justify racist claims of cultural and intellectual superiority. Educators cannot convey this representation as neutral. … This involves recognizing the ways Greco-Roman antiquity has been exploited to establish and maintain white supremacy, naming that exploitation and interrupting it.”
In your district: Learning loss since the pandemic
Note—we initially asked this question in the 6/28 edition.
School districts face diverse issues and challenges. We want to hear what’s happening in your school district. Please complete the very brief survey below—anonymously, if you prefer—and we may share your response with fellow subscribers in an upcoming newsletter.
On June 21, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data on 13-year-old students in public schools showing declines in reading and math test scores compared to tests administered in 2020.
What is the single most important thing your district should do to address learning loss?
Click here to respond!
Share candidate endorsements with us!
As part of our goal to solve the ballot information problem, Ballotpedia is gathering information about school board candidate endorsements. The ballot information gap widens the further down the ballot you go, and is worst for the more than 500,000 local offices nationwide, such as school boards or special districts. Endorsements can help voters know more about their candidates and what they stand for.
Do you know of an individual or group that has endorsed a candidate in your district?
Click here to let us know.
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.
Upcoming school board elections
Washington is holding school board primary elections on Aug. 1. We’re covering elections in the following districts:
Three seats on the Wichita Public Schools school board are up for election on Nov. 7. A primary is scheduled Aug. 1 for the At-Large seat, but primaries for Districts 3 and 4 were canceled because not enough candidates filed.
Here’s what noteworthy presidential candidates are saying about K-12 education
K-12 education has emerged as an early focal point on the 2024 presidential campaign trail. With 481 days to go until the November general election, Republican and Democratic candidates are staking out positions on everything from state and federal education policies to district-level debates over curriculum and gender identity.
In this week’s edition, we’ll look at recent statements on education from the following noteworthy presidential candidates—former President Donald Trump (R), President Joe Biden (D), Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (R).
We track 2024 presidential candidates here and issue periodic updates on campaign activity in our Daily Brew newsletter. We’ve identified three noteworthy Democratic presidential candidates and 13 noteworthy Republican candidates. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (D), Marianne Williamson (D), Doug Burgum (R), Chris Christie (R), Larry Elder (R), Will Hurd (R), Mike Pence (R), Tim Scott (R), Corey Stapleton (R), and Francis Suarez (R) have not made any recent statements regarding K-12 public education and for that reason are not included below.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or reply to this email to send us presidential candidate education statements.
On June 30, Trump addressed Moms for Liberty’s annual summit.
In his speech, Trump said, “On day one, I will sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.” Trump also said he wanted to return education to the states, a sentiment he expressed in March when he told reporters he’d eliminate the Department of Education if elected: “We spend more money per pupil and we’re always at the bottom of a list of 40 countries. And we should close it up and let local areas, and frankly, states, handle education.”
Trump’s 2024 campaign website lists “Protect Parents Rights” as one of his top issues: “President Trump will reward states and school districts that abolish teacher tenure for grades K-12 and adopt Merit Pay, cut the number of school administrators, adopt a Parental Bill of Rights, and implement the direct election of school principals by the parents.”
Biden spoke to a gathering of National Education Association (NEA) members on July 4. The NEA is the country’s largest teachers union. Biden said, “Let’s stand with teachers and educators against politicians who are trying to score political points by banning books. Did you all ever think you’d be in a situation, in the United States of America, we’re talking about banning books? And the people deciding what books to ban? Come on. That’s not who we are.”
On March 6, Biden released his budget plan for the federal government for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins Oct. 1. Biden is seeking $90 billion for the Department of Education—a 13.6% increase from 2023.
Biden’s 2024 campaign website does not include a section on education.
Like Trump, DeSantis spoke at the Moms for Liberty summit on June 30. The organization previously tapped DeSantis to keynote its 2022 summit. DeSantis represented Florida in the U.S. House before he was elected governor in 2018.
DeSantis said, “We have enacted a parents bill of rights in the state of Florida because we understand that the purpose of our school systems are to support the communities, to support students and parents. It is not to supersede the rights of parents. Parents—parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.” DeSantis also said, “We’ve signed universal education savings account legislation, so the money will follow the student and the parent and you’re in a situation where you can make intelligent decisions.”
DeSantis’ 2024 campaign website does not include a page breaking down his stance on education.
Haley was the U.N. Ambassador in the Trump administration and the former governor of South Carolina. At the Moms for Liberty summit on June 30, Haley said, “Parents should be able to decide which schools their kids go to. We don’t need a child going to school based on a zip code or where they are born and raised. Every child deserves a good education and every parent deserves to know what is being taught and where they are being taught.”
Haley’s campaign website states, “As governor, Nikki successfully pushed for education reform that focused on improving education for South Carolina’s poorest students. She also signed a charter school bill that expanded school choice, and signed a bill eliminating the federal government’s Common Core standards.”
Hutchinson was the governor of Arkansas from 2015 to 2023. Hutchinson spoke at the Moms for Liberty summit on July 1. Hutchinson said, “I also supported choice in education, and I mentioned computer science because this is important. When you are engaged in the school system, we want to give our children every opportunity to make a good living when they finish. and I set a goal to put computer science into every high school in Arkansas.” Hutchinson also said, “We created a transparency law that I signed into law, that said school districts must put their curriculum of what they are teaching the children online where there is transparency and parents can know what is being taught.”
As the chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) in 2021, Hutchinson said he intended Arkansas’ requirement that all high schoolers take a computer science class to be a model for other states.
Hutchinson’s 2024 campaign website does not include his stance on education.
Ramaswamy founded a pharmaceutical company, Roivant Sciences, where he was chief executive officer through 2021. At the Moms for Liberty summit, Ramaswamy promised to shut down the U.S. Department of Education and redirect that funding to school choice programs around the country. Ramaswamy said that as a precondition for receiving the money, he would require states to “write their contracts in a way that stops the public school teachers from entering teachers unions.”
Aside from a line about shutting down the Department of Education, Ramaswamy’s 2024 campaign website does not include an education plan.
A look at the upcoming school board recall in Richland, Wash.
You may have seen this story in the July 10 edition of The Daily Brew. In each edition, you’ll find three quick stories to help you understand local, state, and federal politics. Click here to subscribe.
On June 21, we released our mid-year recall report looking back at recall election efforts since the start of the year. Today, we’re looking ahead at an upcoming recall in Washington’s Richland School District on Aug. 1.
This recall involves three of the five members of the school board: M. Semi Bird, Audra Byrd, and Kari Williams.
Recall supporters said this effort stems from a special meeting held on Feb. 15, 2022, amid the coronavirus pandemic, when the three members voted to make masks optional while a statewide mask requirement was in place. Supporters also allege the members collaborated ahead of the meeting in violation of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.
Bird, Byrd, and Williams all denied any wrongdoing. Williams said, “The general feeling for us is that this has always been about students … Giving families a mask choice option was doing what was best for every child.”
The number of COVID-19 related recalls has declined in recent years. In 2020 and 2021, such recalls accounted for 37% of all recalls efforts nationwide. That number fell to 13% in 2022 and to 1% this year.
Overall, there have been 133 coronavirus-related recall efforts. Most of those—110, or 83%—never made it to the ballot. Voters approved five efforts (4%), removing officials from office, and defeated 15 efforts (11%).
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!
- Religious right gets blindsided by angry parents in a Southern California school district | Politico
- Supreme Court Skirts Question of Whether Charter Schools are Public | The 74
- It’s Getting Hard to Stage a School Play Without Political Drama | The New York Times
- NYC’s rising graduation rates bucked national trends. A little-known grading policy may hold clues. | Chalkbeat New York
- Districts used 2,591 ed tech tools on average in 2022-23 | K-12 Dive
- Missouri Parents Can Be Jailed if Their Kids Aren’t in School Regularly | The Wall Street Journal
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