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 curating school libraries
- Share candidate endorsements with us!
- School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
- Twelve states this year have introduced bills changing school board election dates
- Extracurricular: education news from around the web
- Candidate Connection survey
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share reactions or story ideas!
On the issues: The debate over curating school libraries
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.
Today, we’re going to examine perspectives on an open letter former President Barack Obama (D) wrote to librarians.
Obama writes that decisions to remove books from libraries are “profoundly misguided, and contrary to what has made this country great.” Obama says controversial books should be kept in libraries to promote and allow children to engage with more diverse perspectives and viewpoints and to see more diverse representation in the books they read.
The Editors at National Review write that school libraries are not suppressing ideas, perspectives, or diverse representation. Instead, the editors say that some sexual reading content is not appropriate for children of certain ages and argue that states, school boards, and other local officials should be able to make appropriate choices with the input of parents.
Thank You to America’s Librarians for Protecting Our Freedom to Read | Barack Obama, Medium
“In any democracy, the free exchange of ideas is an important part of making sure that citizens are informed, engaged and feel like their perspectives matter.. … Today, some of the books that shaped my life — and the lives of so many others — are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. It’s no coincidence that these ‘banned books’ are often written by or feature people of color, indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community — though there have also been unfortunate instances in which books by conservative authors or books containing ‘triggering’ words or scenes have been targets for removal. Either way, the impulse seems to be to silence, rather than engage, rebut, learn from or seek to understand views that don’t fit our own. I believe such an approach is profoundly misguided, and contrary to what has made this country great. As I’ve said before, not only is it important for young people from all walks of life to see themselves represented in the pages of books, but it’s also important for all of us to engage with different ideas and points of view.”
What Obama’s Letter to Libraries Leaves Out | The Editors, National Review
“At first glance, the recent criticism that Barack Obama leveled against those in America who are supposedly ‘banning’ books might sound reasonable — if you overlook the characteristic Obama touches of generalities, obfuscations, and euphemisms. … Actually banning books is a terrible thing. And yet, when one digs into the controversies that have inspired Obama’s missive, one quickly discovers that it is not so much that ‘ideas’ and ‘perspectives’ are being suppressed in America as that age-inappropriate material is being removed from its schools and, in some cases, from the children’s sections of public libraries. While there is a fair argument about the threshold for a book to be removed from a school library (e.g., objections from one parent should not be sufficient), it is telling that Obama mentions none of the controversies surrounding sexually explicit materials being on offer to children. … Because public schools are just that — public — they must remain responsive to the states, school boards, and parents who run them. Because neither time nor space nor funds are unlimited, they will always exclude some books whenever they choose to include others.”
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 respond!
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.
Twelve states have introduced bills changing school board election dates this year
In an earlier edition of this newsletter, we looked at our research on the timing of school board elections across the country. In half of states, school board elections are most commonly held off-cycle from federal elections—in odd-numbered years or on non-November dates.
According to our database, 12 states have considered 15 bills this year that modify school board election dates to coincide with other local or statewide elections.
As of this writing, legislators in three of those states have passed bills changing—or authorizing changes to—school board election dates. Lawmakers in Texas (SB1131) authorized districts of a certain size and location to move their elections to the November general election. North Carolina (H88) and New Mexico (SB335) changed dates in specific jurisdictions.
Republicans sponsored nine of those 15 bills, while Democrats sponsored three. The remaining three were introduced by committees or without sponsorship.
In 2022, only two states considered bills affecting school board election dates. Republicans sponsored both of them.
Election timing is not an abstract concern. According to UC Berkeley Professor Sarah Anzia, election timing can influence the number of voters who cast ballots: “When city elections are held on-cycle—meaning on the same day as national and state elections—most people who turn out to vote for president or governor will vote in the city races as well. But many of these same people won’t bother to vote in city races held at other times.”
Oklahoma lawmakers introduced more bills this year that would change school board election dates than any other state—21% of all those introduced. One bill, SB244, would have changed school board election dates to the November general election. The Senate, where Republicans hold a 40-8 majority, passed the bill 31-15 in March, but it died in committee in the House.
The Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) opposed SB244, writing, “General election ballots are busy, with statewide, judicial, legislative races and state questions, and voters face a barrage of election-related information. School board elections are important, but it will be difficult for school board candidates to capture the attention of voters when they’re competing for time and attention against other elections and ballot measures.”
State Sen. David Bullard (R), who sponsored the bill, said, “You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why would you want to have an election and keep an election in a time in a place of their choosing where people won’t show up?’ The kingdom-building has to stop.”
Here’s what school board election timing looks like across the country:
- 25 states have school board elections that are mostly held in odd-numbered years or non-November dates
- 10 of those states have school board elections that are generally held on election dates in November of odd-numbered years.
- 15 of those states have school board elections generally held on election dates that are not in November.
- 14 states have school board elections that are mostly held in November of even-numbered years, corresponding with federal elections.
- 11 states either do not have laws or common practices that determine a specific school board election date or have varying school board election dates.
- Hawaii has a single appointed school board.
In total, including legislation dealing with non-school board elections, state legislators have introduced 42 bills consolidating election dates this year—compared to 18 bills in 2022.
In addition to bills changing school board election dates, other bills would eliminate odd-year elections, either statewide or for specific levels of government. Three states considered doing so in 2022, while five states have active legislation that would do so this year. These states are Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New York and North Carolina.
Eight of the 42 bills introduced this year have been enacted so far.
Five states—Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia—hold off-year state elections for governor and other executive offices. With the exception of Kentucky, all of these states also hold off-year state legislative elections, while Wisconsin also elects at least some state executive offices in off-years.
You can learn more about legislation affecting election dates in your state through our free Legislation Tracker.
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!
- 3 reasons creativity is essential for the future of education | eSchool News
- Pa.’s latest bid to regulate cyber charter schools would lower tuition payments, boost transparency | Spotlight PA
- California Politics: Newsom’s war with a conservative school board | Los Angeles Times
- What to know about Virginia’s transgender student model policies | The Washington Post
- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes another charter school oversight bill | Killeen Daily Herald
- How to Enact an AI Policy in Your K–12 Schools | EdTech
- Analysis: Idaho schools chief puts a K-12 funding formula rewrite on a fast track | Idaho Capital Sun
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.
If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. 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!
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 sample ballot.
In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey.