The Grade’s Alexander Russo talks education reporting and school board elections in the latest episode of On the Ballot

Welcome to the Thursday, October 5, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. The Grade’s Alexander Russo talks education reporting and school board elections in the latest episode of On the Ballot
  2. Six candidates running for three seats on the Richland School Board in Washington
  3. Biden ends September with a 41% approval rating, Congress at 20%

The Grade’s Alexander Russo talks education reporting and school board elections in the latest episode of On the Ballot

In this week’s episode of On the Ballot, Staff Writer Doug Kronaizl sits down with education writer Alexander Russo. Russo is the founder and publisher of The Grade, a news platform that examines how media reports on education.

In the episode, Russo discusses the changing landscape of education reporting, particularly during the pandemic, and looks at how the media tackled school-related challenges during this period: 

  • Russo talks about The Grade’s recent series on reading reform. The series explores how the media has covered literacy reform and the various policies and storylines that have cropped up in the last few years. 
  • He previews The Grade’s parent-centric coverage coming up this month and discusses the media’s coverage of school board elections
  • Russo also tells us what he is watching heading into next year and gives our listeners advice on how to gauge good education journalism

ICYMI, we wrote about the ongoing debate over reading instruction in our Oct. 4 edition of Hall Pass. That edition is the first of a four-part series in which we’ll take a deep dive into debates over the science of reading, the body of research that studies the way the brain learns to read and the instructional approaches supported by those findings. We’ll also cover what the science of reading looks like in practice, the level of scientific support for the different instructional approaches, whether state or local governments should require the use of these approaches in schools, and whether government policies requiring instruction based on the science of reading have been effective. Click here to read more.

On Nov. 7, Ballotpedia will cover school board elections in 16 states—including all school board elections in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington. 

In the lead-up to November, we’ll also bring you detailed coverage of upcoming school board races we’ve identified as battlegrounds—those that are especially competitive or have potential to significantly alter board dynamics.

For an overview of our school board coverage, click here. To listen to our full discussion with Alexander Russo, follow the link below.

And remember, new episodes of On the Ballot drop every Thursday. If you’re reading this on the morning of Oct. 5, you’re right on time to subscribe to On the Ballot on your favorite podcast app and tune into this week’s episode!

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Six candidates running for three seats on the Richland School Board in Washington

We started our series on school board elections in our Oct. 3 edition with an in depth look at elections in Colorado’s Douglas County School District. Today, we’ll look at the Richland School District in Benton County, Washington. 

Six candidates are running for three school board seats in the district, which had approximately 14,100 students during the 2022-2023 school year.

The general election is taking place nearly three months after voters recalled three of the five school board members during the Aug. 1 primary. 

Voters recalled Position 1 Director Audra Byrd, Position 3 Director M. Semi Bird, and Position 4 Director Kari Williams. The Benton County auditor certified the results on Aug. 15, removing the three board members from office.

Recall supporters said 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. To learn more about the recall, click here.

Two of the seats involved in the recall—Position 3 and Position 4—are up for election on Nov. 7. Position 5 is also up for election. 

Here are the six candidates running for the three seats. The Washington Education Association (WEA), which “recommends and helps to elect pro-public education, pro-labor candidates to office,” has endorsed three of the candidates, while the Benton Republican Party has endorsed two: 

Chelsie Beck and Nino Kapitula are running for Position 3:

  • Beck is a chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who said her goal was to “work with parents, students, and school staff to understand the needs of all students and work to support them.” She said she “[understood] that there is a limited budget” and that, in her job, she has “experience managing multi-million-dollar budgets.”
  • Kapitula is the director of project development and design for Providence Land LLC. She said, “We should have the right to know what is being taught in the classroom, fully transparent about teaching and learning materials. … I will work to close the gap between parents and teachers to rebuild a broken trust.”

Katrina Waters and Kari Williams are running for Position 4:

  • Waters is a laboratory fellow and chief scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She said she has “25 years of experience working collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams and serving on federal advisory boards” and said she would “work to ensure that Richland School District meets the needs of all students and staff, ensure fiscal responsibility, lobby for sufficient funding and effective use of taxpayer money.”
  • Williams was one of the three school board members voters recalled in August. Williams said she would “continue to champion her initiative to overcome COVID learning losses by prioritizing every child reading on grade level. … [and] support our community’s family values.” She said she’d also keep “[pushing] the district to keep our classrooms a place where all children feel safe to learn and where the instruction is focused on teaching our children how to think — not what to think.”

Incumbent Jill Oldson and Gene Nemeth are running for Position 5:

  • Oldson has served on Position 5 since June 2018. Oldson said she believed “the parent/guardian has the ultimate say in their child’s education” and listed “mental health, special education, academic success, transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility, and local control” as her core values.
  • Nemeth is the facility operations and maintenance group lead at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He said he is “committed to … student achievement and special education, advocating for parent rights, implementing measurable goals, spending more time monitoring goals, increasing transparency and accountability …, listening to educators and what they need to succeed, ensuring all stakeholders, including students, are engaged in the plan to achieve excellence, and tying budget priorities to student outcomes.”

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Biden ends September with a 41% approval rating, Congress at 20%

At the end of September, polling averages showed President Joe Biden (D) at 41% approval. Fifty-five percent of voters disapproved of his performance. This was the same approval rating he received at the end of August.

Throughout September, Biden’s approval rating ranged from 41% to 42%. Biden’s lowest approval rating was 38%, last recorded on July 27, 2022. His highest approval rating was 55, last recorded on May 26, 2021.

At the end of September, congressional approval was at 20%, and disapproval was at 73%. The 118th Congress began the month with its lowest-ever approval rating of 16%, last seen on Sept. 8th. The highest approval rating it has received was 33%, last recorded on April 21, 2023.

At this time during the Trump administration, presidential approval was three points higher at 44%, and congressional approval was two points lower at 18%.

Ballotpedia’s polling index takes the average of polls conducted over the last 30 days to calculate presidential and congressional approval ratings. We average the results and show all polling results side-by-side because we believe that paints a clearer picture of public opinion than any individual poll can provide. The data is updated daily as new polling results are published.

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