School board deep dives continued—to Pennsylvania we go!

Welcome to the Thursday, October 19, 2023, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

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

  1. Previewing the Central Bucks School District races in Pennsylvania
  2. Biden has nominated 182 federal judges, 29% less than the average of his three predecessors at this point in their first terms
  3. A deep dive into Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey, plus a conversation with Dwayne Yancey, in the latest episodes of On The Ballot

Previewing the Central Bucks School District races in Pennsylvania

Thousands of school board members will be elected in races across the country on Nov. 7. Over the past few weeks, we’ve brought you in-depth coverage of elections across the country—including in Douglas County School District, just south of Denver, Colorado, the Richland School District in Benton County, Washington, and the Anoka-Hennepin County school board races in Minnesota. 

Today, we’ll look at the Central Bucks School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where 10 candidates are running for five board seats.

The district, located north of Philadelphia, is the fourth largest school district in Pennsylvania, with approximately 17,570 students during the 2021-2022 school year. It is the 469th largest school district nationally.

School board elections in Pennsylvania are partisan. Heading into the election, the board has a 6-3 Republican majority. The five seats up for election are for regions 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8. Republicans represent three of those regions, while Democrats represent two. Republicans need to win at least two of the five regions to maintain a majority, while Democrats need to win at least four of the five to win a majority.

Here are the candidates running in each region. An (i) indicates an incumbent.

The five Democrats—Smith, Reynolds, Foley, Haring, and Gibson—are running as the Neighbors United for School Board slate of candidates. They are campaigning against the school board’s book and neutrality policies. On its website, Neighbors United says it supports “candidates who respect our students and staff as individuals, commit to supporting public education, and will improve classroom resource funding.” The slate opposes what it calls “book banning, anti-LGBTQA+ policies, and ‘culture war’ politics.”

The five Republicans—Hunter, Mass, Schloeffel, Martino, and Arjona—are running as the Central Bucks Forward slate of candidates. The slate’s priorities are: “employ School Resource Officers to protect schools and build bridges with students; launch full-day kindergarten and STEM Academy; reverse Covid learning losses by shifting from controversy to classroom excellence; design and deploy curriculum focused on preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs; and nurture civil debate to protect the voices of students, parents, and teachers.”

Two recent events in 2022/2023 have played a factor in this year’s elections.

  • In July 2022, the board voted along partisan lines to allow parents to “challenge a book in a school library if it depicts implied or actual nudity or ‘sexual acts’.” According to the new guidelines, a committee of librarians, teachers, and administrators then determines if the book should remain in school libraries. 
  • In January 2023, the board voted along partisan lines for a neutrality policy that forbids district employees from advocating to students on “‘partisan, political, or social policy matters,’ or display any ‘flag, banner, poster, sign, sticker, pin, button, insignia, paraphernalia, photograph, or other similar material that advocates concerning any partisan, political, or social policy issue.’”

To learn more about the Central Bucks School District elections, click the link below. To read more about other school board elections we’re covering this year, click here

Keep reading 

Biden has nominated 182 federal judges, 29% less than the average of his three predecessors at this point in their first terms

As of Oct. 1, President Joe Biden had nominated 182 Article III judges, 29% below the average of his three most recent predecessors—former Presidents Donald Trump (R), Barack Obama (D), and George W. Bush (R) – at this point in their first terms. 

Article III judgeships refer to federal judges who serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, or one of the 13 U.S. courts of appeal or 94 U.S. district courts. These are lifetime presidential appointments subject to Senate confirmation.

The U.S. Senate confirmed two Article III judges between Sept. 24 and Oct. 16, bringing the total number of confirmations to 135.  

Here’s how many Article III judges Biden’s three predecessors sent to the U.S. Senate, and how many of those were confirmed, 985 days into their presidencies:

The chart below shows the number of confirmed judicial nominations by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present).

There are currently 68 Article III vacancies. For upcoming vacancies, the president may submit a nomination to the U.S. Senate before the vacancy occurs.

There are five key steps in the vacancy process: a presidential nomination, a U.S. Senate committee hearing, a Senate committee vote to report the nominee to the full Senate, the full Senate voting on confirmation, and a confirmed nominee taking the judicial oath and receiving a judicial commission.

If you want to learn more about U.S. Supreme Court activity and other judicial happenings around the U.S., subscribe to Robe & Gavel, our monthly newsletter covering the federal judiciary.

Keep reading 

A deep dive into Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey, plus a conversation with Dwayne Yancey, in the latest episodes of On The Ballot

This week, we released two episodes of On the Ballot, our (usually) weekly podcast. 

In the first episode, released on Oct. 17, Ballotpedia’s Communications Director Alison Graves and Communications Manager Sarah Groat discuss Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Any of the hundreds of thousands of candidates for political office can complete the Ballotpedia candidate survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about why they are running for office.

In the episode, Alison and Sarah go over the type of information we seek from candidates, how the survey’s design has evolved over time, and how the Candidate Connection can arm listeners with the knowledge they need before they head to the polls.

In our second episode of the week, released on Oct. 19 (today!), Staff Writer Doug Kronaizl sits down with Virginia Journalist Dwayne Yancey. Yancey is the executive editor of Cardinal News, an independent and nonpartisan news site that serves Southwest and Southside Virginia.

During their chat, Yancey discusses the upcoming school board elections in Virginia and why school board dynamics in rural areas help explain why most school board elections are uncontested. Yancey also discusses his career covering Virginia politics, the kind of reporting Cardinal News does, and some recent articles he’s written about Virginia’s education landscape.

To listen to this week’s episodes in full and many others, click the link below!

New episodes of On the Ballot drop every Thursday afternoon, so don’t forget to subscribe to catch our next one!

Keep reading