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 religious charter schools
- Share candidate endorsements with us!
- School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
- An update on 2023 and 2024 education-related ballot measures
- 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 religious charter 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. Missed an issue? Click here to see the previous education debates we’ve covered.
The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 5-3 in June to approve an application for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School—the nation’s first religious charter school.
Rachel Laser writes that religious charter schools are unconstitutional and contradict the idea of the separation of church and state. Laser says taxpayers should not have to fund religious instruction they may disagree with.
Hudson Crozier writes that ideologically neutral education doesn’t exist. Crozier says that since conservatives and the religious have to pay for instruction they disagree with, there should be competing public options.
Christian Nationalists Can’t Wait for This School in Oklahoma to Open | Rachel Laser, New York Times
“The establishment of a school that claims to be simultaneously public and religious — what has been a legal oxymoron in the United States since its founding — violates one of the foundational principles of American constitutional tradition: the separation of church and state. It also threatens religious freedom and undermines public education. … Indeed, it’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than the state establishing a supposedly public school that is run as a religious school. Forcing taxpayers to fund religion, let alone a religion not their own, violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s explicit command that no public money or property “shall ever” be used to benefit or support religion. It’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson labeled “sinful and tyrannical.” … A public school that is subsumed in any one church’s dogma is no longer a public school. Yet Oklahoma taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for it.”
The hypocrisy of the Left’s secular education demands | Hudson Crozier, Washington Examiner
“The argument for not forcing taxpayers to support what they disagree with morally is understandable. But if liberals really believed in this principle, they would despise what is already happening in public education nationwide. Schools are constantly exposed for advancing controversial ideas about race and LGBT identities onto children. Conservative and religious taxpayers are “on the hook” for this “dogma” as well. Sometimes, it involves schools paying outside organizations such as an activist group or children’s hospital. Under President Joe Biden, the Department of Education has paid groups that encourage teachers to hide students’ gender transitions from parents. … The argument is ironic on two fronts. First, it is marketed as pro-neutrality when it obviously is not. Second, like the New York Times article, supporters often invoke the Founding Fathers. These men wrote a founding document declaring that laws ought to reflect God-given rights. No matter what it claims, the Left is not pursuing value-neutral education. Since there is no such thing, neither should conservatives. May the best values win.”
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.
Election results from the past week
On Aug. 8, residents of the Williston Basin School District in North Dakota voted to keep three at-large members of the board in a special recall election, according to unofficial results. The incumbents, Chris Jundt, Kyle Renner, and John Kasmer, were on the ballot alongside challengers Jonathan Greiner, Ryan Park, and Sharlet Mohr.
The three board members started their four-year terms on the seven-member board on July 1, 2021.
At a meeting in early 2023, recall committee members discussed the district receiving an “F” grade in proficiency scores for the 2021-2022 school year. They also said the board had been fiscally irresponsible and not transparent about district policy.
Jundt, who was president of the school board when the recall effort started, said: “The Williston Basin School District #7 School Board’s focus remains centered on the academic achievement of our students. We are fully committed to furthering our mission to inspire and prepare students for the next level of education, work, and life. Efforts to recall seated board members will not distract this board from continuing the positive work that is being done in our district. We will continue to further our vision of fostering student growth and building trusting partnerships between students, staff, family, and the community. The outcome of our efforts will continue to empower students to make a difference in the community and world that we live in.”
The Williston Education Association endorsed the three incumbent board members in the recall election.
The Williston Basin School District has an estimated enrollment of about 4,400 students.
On Aug. 1, voters recalled three of the five members of the Richland School District school board—Audra Byrd, Semi Bird, and Kari Williams. The three board members will be removed from office after the results are certified on Aug. 15.
Recall supporters said that the board members violated the Open Public Meetings Act; violated district policies, procedures, and code of ethics; and voted to make masks optional while a statewide mask requirement was in place. All three board members denied any wrongdoing.
One board member, Semi Bird, is running as a Republican candidate for governor in 2024.
Upcoming school board elections
Recall elections against Zone 4 representative Keith Rutledge and Zone 2 representative Susan Brown, members of the West Bonner County School District school board in Idaho, are being held on Aug. 29. The recall effort began when the board voted 3-1 to reject curriculum it had previously endorsed because of concerns about social emotional learning. Click here to read the recall petitions and Rutledge’s and Brown’s responses.
An update on 2023 and 2024 education-related ballot measures
On Aug. 4, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) announced a campaign that had sought to place a veto referendum on the 2024 ballot to repeal the LEARNS Act, an education bill Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed on March 8, failed to collect the required 54,422 signatures. Among other things, the LEARNS Act created the Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program to provide taxpayer funding to students for private tuition and other educational expenses.
With 2024 quickly approaching, here is an update on some of the measures that will and could appear on the ballot—both this year and in the year to come.
Education measures have been certified for the ballot in New York and Texas.
In New York on Nov. 7, voters will decide the New York Remove Debt Limit on Small City School Districts Amendment. This measure, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, would eliminate the constitutional debt limit for small city school districts (defined in the New York Constitution as any school district partly or fully within, or a district with less than, 125,000 inhabitants). This debt limit currently amounts to 5% of the average full value of the last five years’ property tax rolls within the district.
The measure would also remove constitutional language excluding debt contracted for educational purposes for small cities.
On Nov. 7, Texas voters will decide Proposition 5, the Rename State University Research Fund and Establish Ongoing Revenue Source Amendment. This measure, also a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, would rename the National Research University Fund (NRUF) to the Texas University Fund. It would also allocate to the fund the interest, dividends, and investment earnings from the Economic Stabilization Fund (rainy day fund) from the preceding fiscal year. The total amount allocated in fiscal 2024 would be limited to $100 million.
Thus far, five education-related measures are certified for the 2024 ballot in Utah, Florida, Arkansas, and Nevada.
In Utah, voters will decide on the State School Fund Distribution Cap Increase Amendment, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. It would increase the limit on annual distributions from the State School Fund for public education from 4% to 5% of the fund. Voters will also decide the Constitutional Requirements for Education Funding Amendment, also legislatively referred, would remove the constitutional mandate on how revenues from income taxes and intangible property taxes are spent on education.
Section 5 of Article XIII of the Utah Constitution states that all revenue from income taxes and intangible property taxes must be used to fund public education, higher education, children, and persons with disabilities. The amendment would allow tax revenue from intangible property and income to be used for other purposes once the requirements for public education funding are met.
In Florida, voters will decide the Partisan School Board Elections Amendment. It would make school board elections partisan beginning in the November 2026 general election and for partisan primaries for the 2026 election.
Four states — Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania — have state laws providing for partisan school board elections. Five states — Rhode Island, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia — allow partisan or nonpartisan school board elections depending on the district. Forty-one states containing 11,761 school districts have school board elections without party labels identifying the affiliation of candidates listed on the ballot (nonpartisan elections).
In Arkansas, voters will decide the Lottery Proceed Funding for Vocational-Technical School Scholarships and Grants Amendment. It would allow proceeds from the state lottery to fund scholarships and grants for vocational-technical schools and technical institutes. Arkansas is one of 45 states that have a lottery.
In Nevada, voters will decide the Remove Constitutional Status of Board of Regents Amendment. It would remove the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution and would authorize the legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities. The Board of Regents is an elected board that oversees eight public institutions of higher education in Nevada, including the University of Nevada System.
Here are the 13 measures that could appear on the 2024 ballot:
- Florida Prayer in Schools Initiative
- Oregon School Choice Account Amendment
- California Establish Right to Public Education Initiative
- California Public School and College Health and Safety Bond Measure
- Nebraska Education Scholarships Tax Credit Referendum
- Oregon Education Savings Account Initiative
- California Public Education Facilities Bond Measure
- Colorado Constitutional Right to School Choice Initiative
- California Landfill Management and Education Funding Initiative
- California Right to Public Education Initiative
- Massachusetts Repeal Competency Assessment Requirement for High School Graduation Initiative
- Massachusetts Public Health and Epidemiology Education Initiative
- Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System Replacement Initiative
Our database has more than 1,000 statewide education-related measures that were certified for the ballot between 1862 and 2023. You can see the full list 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!
- Walters zeroes in on ‘poor leadership,’ chronically low academic outcomes at TPS | Tulsa World
- State takeovers of ‘failing’ schools are increasing. Do they help students? | The Washington Post
- A Third of Homeless Students Are Chronically Absent. Would an ‘Attendance Culture’ Help? | EdSurge
- Arizona attorney general warns parents that school voucher program is ‘buyer-beware situation’ | KTAR News
- Top Democrats rebuke N.J. school board over equity rules | New Jersey Monitor
- Shockwaves & Innovations: How Nations Worldwide Are Dealing with AI in Education | The 74
- Alabama Republicans ban school board candidates from accepting AEA money | Alabama Daily News
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 2022 election cycle, 6,087 candidates completed the survey.