Taghall pass

Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #31

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 Ohio’s law that makes it easier for teachers to carry firearms in classrooms
  • In your district: reader replies on policies around books
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over Ohio’s law that makes it easier for teachers to carry firearms in classrooms

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.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed legislation June 13 making it easier for teachers to carry firearms in school safety zones. The law took effect Sept. 12. This section examine the debate over the law and its effects. 

Washington Post opinion columnist Christine Emba writes that the Ohio bill will not effectively reduce or deter gun violence in schools. Emba says the legislature neglected its duty to enact stricter gun regulations and instead used the teacher gun law to distract from what she says are legitimate solutions.

Ohio state Sen. Jerry Cirino (R) writes that tight gun regulations do not work in places they are tried. Cirino says armed teachers would effectively stop school shooters. He also says children have a right to be defended with firearms and that Emba would sacrifice children for politics.

Opinion | Ohio Republicans’ proposal to arm teachers is an act of cowardice | Christine Emba, The Washington Post

“[T]he Ohio GOP would rather create an ouroboros of guns — mass shooters faced by teacher shooters who themselves shoot back, everyone armed to the hilt — than entertain the obvious and less convoluted solution: gun regulation that would keep deadly firearms out of the hands of potential killers, and out of our classrooms, in the first place. That such suggestions are coming to the table at all tells us something significant about the state of our politics — and many of our politicians. As with so many national problems that need collective solutions, the GOP would prefer to shift the burden to individuals. … Proposing that we arm teachers to prevent school shootings is an abdication of common sense and legislative duty.”

Opinion | When teachers are the ones with guns in classrooms | Jerry Cirino, The Washington Post

“Ms. Emba apparently doesn’t think children are worth protecting with guns. She prefers more gun regulation. How are strict gun regulations working out in Chicago? How did relying on 911 work out in Uvalde, Tex.? Ms. Emba suggested armed teachers wouldn’t stop shooters. But the Crime Prevention Research Center has documented 43 incidents since 2014 when a citizen with a gun stopped a likely mass shooting. Not one innocent bystander was shot. Ms. Emba called the people behind this bill spineless cowards for choosing to protect our children with trained armed guards. That makes no sense. Unless she doesn’t care about our children. Just a radical agenda to strip our right to self-defense. She would sacrifice our children for politics. That is worse than cowardice.”

In your district: reader replies on policies around books

We recently asked readers the following question about how school boards should set policy on books in school districts:

School boards are responsible for setting policies around books—including which books to select and whether to ban or prohibit certain books. What are your views about how school boards should set policy surrounding books in school districts?

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses. We’ll return in October with another reader question. If you have ideas for questions we should ask in the future, reply to this email to let us know!

A school board member from Oregon wrote

“Books are going to be selected. All books cannot be used, there are too many. Someone has to set the criteria for how and what books are selected. The community through its elected school board should set the criteria. This is not book banning or censorship.”

A high school junior from Colorado wrote:

“I think that in schools, the conversation on what material to ban or restrict should include the students. Perhaps the students could take a survey, and the results could be considered by the school board. Another option is for the school to have students take a vote, which would count as one or multiple votes on the school board. Children aren’t unintelligent, and they deserve the chance to represent their interests and values.”

A community member from Florida wrote

“Education means learning about everything. Teachers should not teach what parents find acceptable. They must teach about the world and everything in it and that includes both the good and bad things. Children’s worlds open up by reading and studying. By limiting what they read we limit the children’s ability to grow. If they are only allowed to learn about things their parents find acceptable they will become very one sided individuals. Some of my best discussions with my children happened when they learned something I didn’t know and they shared it with me. I encouraged them to challenge ideas so they could process the information they were given and make their own decisions.”

A community member from South Carolina wrote:

“Yes. Books teaching anything of a sexual nature, CRT or SEL should not be in the curriculum.”

A teacher from Virginia wrote:

“Generally, students should be exposed to a wide spectrum of ideas. Grade level books in a wide variety of fields should be available in school libraries. Of course, some restrictions on appropriate content might be required, but this should be minimized as much as possible. One good compromise could be automatic alerts sent to parents each time their child checks out a book with its title and author.”

A school board member from Montana wrote:

“I do not feel the board should be spending time banning books. Students should have access to a wide-variety of books available in the library with little interference from the school board. Books used in the classroom must be part of approved curriculum. The curriculum is approved by the school board after being available for the public to review and comment. Once the curriculum has been adopted we have a process to challenge items. This process seems to work well for our district.”

A community member from Massachusetts wrote:

“There should be full transparency with parents around the policies by which curriculum and books are selected. It appears that much is hidden from the parents/public around what is required to be incorporated into curriculum and books based on funding (government & private).”

A school board member from Missouri wrote:

“Boards should have little or no involvement in book issues. Policy should allow parents to challenge books and create a committee including librarians, teachers, parents, and students to hear such challenges and make written recommendations to Supt. Appeal to board may be unnecessary to include in policy. And boards should not become activist in book selection! This would be micro-managing of the worst kind!”

Another community member from South Carolina wrote

“I think school boards should put parental advisory on books with gender ideology and critical race theory. Parents should have to opt their child IN to being able access those books in school libraries. If they are not opted in, the librarian should not allow them to access those books.”

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 general election for Chandler Unified School District Governing Board At-large in Arizona. Chandler Unified School District is Arizona’s second largest by enrollment, with over 43,000 students. Two seats are up for election. 

Five candidates are running in the nonpartisan race. Incumbent Lara Bruner and Kurt Rohrs completed Ballotpedia’s survey. Excerpts from their responses are included below. 

Here’s how Bruner, who was first elected in 2018, answered the question “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “All CUSD children deserve excellent teachers dedicated to continual growth through district and outside professional development opportunities.
  • “All CUSD children deserve evidence-based curricula at the appropriate level of rigor, whether they perform at grade level, need interventions, or require acceleration and enrichment.
  • “All CUSD children deserve physically and emotionally safe schools where they can thrive.”

Click here to read the rest of Bruner’s responses. 

Here’s how Rohrs answered the question “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Education Fundamentals should be the primary focus of Curriculum. Achieve Minimum 50% Reading and Math proficiency at all schools.
  • “Political and Social Activism has no place in our classrooms. Don’t use Classrooms to promote personal agendas.
  • “Let Teachers Teach. Provide a safe, supportive, and secure environment for teachers to practice their craft.”

Click here to read the rest of Rohrs’ responses. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. 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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #30

Ballotpedia's Hall Pass

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 Pennsylvania’s proposed Lifeline Scholarship Program 
  • In your district: Choosing curricular materials and library books
  • Here are the education-related measures voters will decide in November
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over Pennsylvania’s proposed Lifeline Scholarship Program

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.

Pennsylvania HB 2169 aims to establish a scholarship program that would give the parents of some children, including the parents of children in the lowest-performing 15% of school districts, around $6,800 to spend on education-related expenses. The state Senate is considering the bill, which the state House passed 104-98 on April 27, 2022. State Rep. Clint Owlett (R) introduced HB 2169. Republicans hold a 113-89 majority in the House. 

Jackie Huff writes that HB 2169 would exacerbate problems facing underperforming schools by reducing their funding and redirecting it to private schools if students spend their Lifeline Scholarship funds outside the public school system. Huff says public schools are underfunded and would be worse for the 90% of students who attend public schools if the bill passes.

Laurie Todd-Smith writes that HB 2169 would largely benefit minority students and poorer students and families. Todd-Smith says students should not be trapped in the lowest-performing 15% of public schools in the state and says HB 2169 and the Lifeline Scholarship Program would give families the ability to choose a better education.  

Op-Ed: Voucher Bill Has Dire Consequences for Pennsylvania Public Schools | Jackie Huff, StateCollege.com

“[T]hese Lifeline Scholarships will rob resources from districts that need them the most. If a student elects to leave public school X and uses a Lifeline Scholarship to attend a private school, the funds given to the parents of the student to spend on “qualified education expenses” will come out of the budget for the public school X. Pennsylvania has been chronically underfunding school districts for decades—so taking additional funds away from districts that are being underfunded already is only going to exacerbate the problem. In recent polling, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania parents with children in K-12 schools supported providing struggling schools with additional resources and supports. The voucher bill would do the opposite and continue to squeeze districts that are fighting to make ends meet and get the services that their students deserve. … We should focus taxpayer money on public schools, where over 90% of Commonwealth students go. Private schools can pick the students they want and reject the ones they don’t want. Public schools accept every child.”

Pennsylvania’s legislature should throw a lifeline to low-income students in failing school districts | Opinion | Laurie Todd-Smith, PennLive

“For many families with at-risk children stuck in low-performing schools, school choice offers what may be the only avenue to a high-quality education. Fortunately for Pennsylvania families, the state legislature has introduced House Bill (HB) 2169 amending the Public-School Code of 1949 to establish a Lifeline Scholarship Program. Lifeline Scholarships help children in the bottom 15% of performing school districts in the state. As a result, low-income students trapped in the worst-performing schools will have access to better educational opportunities and a real chance at a prosperous future. … Eighty percent of students who attend Pennsylvania’s bottom 15% of public district schools are students of color and low-income children. Furthermore, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, minority students suffered the greatest during the pandemic. As a result, neighboring districts have radically different levels of academic achievement. These drastic achievement gaps must be closed by empowering families to make the best decision for their children. As we emerge from the pandemic, we must protect the future of our communities, our children, and their pathway to prosperity.”

In your district: Choosing curricular materials

School districts around the country face diverse issues and challenges. We want to hear what’s happening in your school district. Complete the very brief survey below—anonymously if you prefer—and we may share your response with fellow subscribers in an upcoming newsletter.

Today’s question:

School boards are responsible for setting policies around books—including which books to select and whether to ban or prohibit certain books. What are your views about how school boards should set policy surrounding books in school districts?

Click here to respond!

Seven education-related ballot measures voters will decide in November

Voters in many states on Nov. 8 will decide ballot measures on a wide range of subjects, from abortion to election administration and beyond. Today, we’re going to look at the education-related measures voters will decide in November. 

Thus far, 137 statewide ballot measures have been certified in 37 states. Seven of those measures are related to education. In 2020, eight education-related measures appeared on the ballot. Voters approved two and defeated six.

Click on the titles below to learn more about each measure.

New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 1, Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution for Early Childhood Education Amendment

Constitutional Amendment 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Constitutional Amendment 1 would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education (60% of the allocation) and public education (40% of the allocation). The Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) is also known as the Permanent School Fund. Revenue in the LGPF comes from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. It was established when New Mexico became a state in 1912.

Arizona Proposition 308, In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Residents Measure 

Proposition 308 is a legislatively referred state statute. Proposition 308 would allow non-citizen students, except those considered to be nonresident aliens under federal law, to receive in-state college tuition when a student (a) attended school in Arizona for at least two years and (b) graduated from a public school, private school, or homeschool in Arizona. Proposition 308 would repeal provisions of Proposition 300, which voters approved in 2006. Proposition 300 said non-citizens could not receive certain state-subsidized services, benefits, or financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

Massachusetts Question 1, Tax on Income Above $1 Million for Education and Transportation Amendment 

Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Question 1 would create an additional 4% tax on the portion of income above $1 million to fund public education, roads and bridges, and public transportation. The tax would be in addition to the state’s 5% flat income tax, for a total tax rate of 9% on income above $1 million. 

West Virginia Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Amendment

This amendment, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, would require the State Board of Education to submit its rules or policies to the Legislature for approval, amendment, or rejection. The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. The governor appoints board members and the Senate confirms them.

Colorado Reduce Income Tax Deduction Amounts to Fund School Meals Program Measure

This measure, a legislatively referred state statute, would reduce income tax deduction amounts for those earning $300,000 or more from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers. The measure would also create and fund the Healthy School Meals for All Program to provide free school meals to all students in Colorado public schools, provide local food purchasing grants, and increase wages for employees who prepare and serve food.

California Proposition 28, Art and Music K-12 Education Funding Initiative

This initiated state statute would require a minimum source of annual funding for K-12 public schools, including charter schools, to fund arts education programs. The annual minimum amount would be equal to, at minimum, 1% of the total state and local revenues that local education agencies received under 1988’s Proposition 98 during the previous fiscal year. 

Idaho Income and Corporate Tax Changes and Education Funding Advisory Question

This is a non-binding question, meaning that the outcome will not result in a new, changed, repealed, or rejected law or constitutional amendment. This advisory question is a provision of House Bill 1 (HB1). In September, during a special session, the Idaho legislature passed HB1, which creates a flat rate tax on income and corporate tax rate and allocates $410 million of the state’s sales tax revenue annually to the public school income fund. HB1 is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 3, 2023. The advisory question allows voters to indicate their support or opposition to the tax changes and education funding enacted by the state legislature.

Before the legislature passed HB1, Proposition 1 would have appeared on the November ballot as an initiated statute. Proposition 1 would have created new tax brackets and tax rates for individuals, trusts, estates, and corporations and established the Quality Education Fund for education funding. 

Following HB1’s passage, the campaign behind Proposition 1 requested the secretary of state withdraw the initiative. 

Luke Mayville, who founded the group that sponsored the initiative, said, “There are two ways a ballot initiative can win. One way is by securing a majority of the vote at the ballot box. Another way is by forcing the Legislature to do something they would never have otherwise done. By placing the Quality Education Act on the ballot, the citizens of Idaho have forced the Legislature to make the largest investment in Idaho public schools in a generation.”

Click here to read more about education-related ballot measures. 

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 general election for Seminole County School Board District 5 in Florida. Dana Fernandez and Autumn Garick advanced from the Aug. 23 primary. 

Three seats on the board are up for election this year. 

Here’s how Fernandez answered the question “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?


“I would like to see the politics out of our schools. It is essential that we restore the power where it belongs, back to the parents. I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens. I also believe very strongly that the students have been negatively impacted by the school closures and mandates. I will never, ever vote to close down the schools again and certainly will never, ever support any mandate.”

Click here to read the rest of Fernandez’s responses. 

Here’s how Garick answered the question “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“As an involved parent of three who attended elementary, middle and high school in Seminole County I have always been passionate about providing the very best education opportunities not just for my own children, but for every student, every school. This means knowing the issues, the schools and building relationships in the system and community. I do my homework. Though I was the third candidate to enter this race I was the first to attend open budget workshops, committee meetings and policy discussions at the county level. I have met with voters, students, teachers, staff and district personnel to learn the specific challenges facing our district at this time and I am active in the classroom. I’m proud to share that my work has earned the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel as well as teachers and staff. Our students, teachers/staff and families deserve a full time advocate and I’m prepared to serve.”

Click here to read the rest of Gerick’s responses. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. 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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #29

Ballotpedia's Hall Pass

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues:  The debate over student discipline and restorative justice
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • State boards of education set education content standards in 36 states
  • Maryland high court rules student school board members can vote
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over student discipline and restorative justice

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.

One topic of debate is how schools should approach student discipline. Proponents of what is called restorative justice say discussions, mediation, and other non-adversarial methods of conflict resolution can address the root of school community problems. They argue traditional methods of punishment such as suspension can make behavioral problems worse and disadvantage minority students. Proponents of traditional discipline methods are necessary to maintain order in schools and that restorative justice practices do not sufficiently restrict bad behavior. 

Joe Herring writes that restorative justice and the movement away from traditional discipline have caused increased violence and criminality in schools. Herring says restorative justice advocates deemphasize and redefine infractions to support the idea that restorative practices lead to better outcomes. He also says restorative justice supporters often encourage school crime victims not to file police reports, creating an environment of unaccountability.

Linda Stamato and Sandy Jaffee write that traditional methods of discipline, like suspensions, are inequitable, fail to address root causes of bad behavior, and can cause problems to escalate. Stamato and Jaffee write that restorative justice practices help students learn negotiation and problem-solving and teach them how to resolve disputes positively and creatively. 

From the penitentiary to the public school: Restorative Justice warps discipline | Joe Herring, The Lion

“Restorative justice programs have been adopted across the country by school systems struggling to maintain order following the expulsion of School Resource Officers (SRO) in the wake of the George Floyd riots and related protests. When students returned to in-person schooling after the COVID lockdowns, many found hallways unmonitored with the SRO gone. The spike in violence and other criminality has been stunning. … Wokeism is indeed evident in many education decisions, specifically regarding the intersections of race, violence, criminality and poor achievement. Circumstances that indicate the failure of restorative justice are glossed over by the redefining of offenses – deemphasizing many of the unlawful behaviors by encouraging victims to refrain from filing police reports, opting instead to engage in restorative practices with their tormentors, facilitated by a restorative coordinator. … Consequences are muted to provide a favorable look, but the underlying behaviors remain unaffected, at the expense of the safety of students and society both.”

Suspending students isn’t the answer. Restorative justice programs in schools are a better solution. | Opinion | Linda Stamato and Sandy Jaffee, NJ.com

“Suspensions raise a number of issues, not least how to deal with disruptive behavior, equitably and effectively, to understand its causes, and to identify and address conditions that may be contributing factors. … There is hope for change on the horizon, though, as more schools experiment with variations on the theme of “restorative justice.” This concept refers to a range of dispute resolution programs that include student-run courts, group sessions, restorative circles (in which all those involved in a dispute participate in discussions about the harm done and devise steps to deter future harm), and, mediation. Restorative justice attempts to reach beyond punitive measures to solve problems before they escalate and threaten the fabric of the school community. … Educational programs that expose students to negotiation and conflict-resolution processes, and teach them problem-solving skills, help to reduce reliance on formal and adversarial processes to deal with disputes and disruptive behavior; they place more emphasis on positive, creative ways to handle conflict.”

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 school districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week

Idaho

We covered school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats were up for election, including special elections for three at-large seats. 

State boards of education set education content standards in 36 states

State content standards are education learning and achievement goals state education officials either require or recommend local schools meet in K-12 instruction. Content standards are not curriculum. Rather, education officials develop content standards in order to facilitate curriculum development. 

Who sets state content standards for K-12 public education?

  • In 36 states, the state board of education sets education content standards. In the majority of states, the governor appoints state board of education members
  • In 10 states, the state department of education sets education content standards. 
  • In Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota, the education commissioner sets education content standards. 
  • In Montana, the superintendent of public instruction sets education content standards. 

State statutes or regulations may require or recommend the use of K-12 education content standards in public instruction.

  • In 39 states, the entity that develops standards issues requirements
  • In 11 states, the entity setting standards issues recommendations
  • Of the 36 state boards of education that set content standards, nine issue recommendations and 27 issue requirements. 
  • Of the 10 state education departments that set content standards, nine issue requirements and one issues recommendations. 
  • Content standards are issued as requirements in Florida, Massachusetts and Minnesota, where the education commissioner sets the standards. 
  • In Montana, the superintendent of public instruction issues recommendations. 

To read more about who sets state K-12 education content standards in your state, click here

Maryland high court rules student school board members can vote

On Aug. 25, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled a state law allowing the student board member on the Howard County Board of Education to vote does not violate the Maryland Constitution.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. One judge on the court was appointed by a Democratic governor and six judges were appointed by a Republican governor.

The 2007 law, Education § 3-701, gives student board members on the Howard County Board the right to vote on some matters. The law says a student member must be a Howard County resident and a junior or senior in a public high school. The law also says that only students in grades six through 11 can vote for a student member candidate. 

In 2020, the Howard County Board of Education held several votes to resume in-person instruction, all of which failed. In each case, the vote was 4-4, with the student member voting against reopening schools. Two parents of students in the district, Traci Spiegel and Kimberly Ford, sued the Board, alleging Maryland Constitution does not permit people under 18 to vote or hold public office. 

Spiegel said, “the student member doesn’t have the ability to vote on budget or personnel, but for some reason had the ability to vote on going back to school virtual or nonvirtual, and I found that disconcerting.”   

The Howard County Circuit Court ruled against the parents in March 2021. The Court of Appeals later granted the parents an appeal. 

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals distinguished between elected offices created by the state Constitution and elected offices created by the General Assembly—offices that include local school boards. 

The Court said: “The General Assembly has broad discretion to control and modify the composition of local boards of education, which includes the creation and selection process of student board members as it sees fit…the General Assembly had they Constitutional authority to create a student member position for the Howard County Board, establish a process for the election of such members by students in the Howard County public school system, and grant such student member voting rights.”

The eight-member Howard County Board of Education is one of eight school boards in the state that allow student members to vote alongside the elected adult members.

According to Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk, “there is no database detailing how many of the nation’s thousands of districts grant student board members voting rights. But the bits and pieces of available information suggest it’s rare. Most of the time, student board members serve in an advisory-only capacity.” Education Week found in 2019 found that only student board members in California and Maryland had voting rights. 

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! 

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here 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 mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.46 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,321 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.46 candidates per seat is 24% more than in 2020.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #28

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over Minneapolis’ collective bargaining agreement 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • How DeSantis and Crist-backed school board candidates fared in Florida’s Aug. 23 school board elections
  • DeSantis removes four Broward County School Board members
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

On the issues

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.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) struck a collective bargaining agreement with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) on March 25, 2022. The agreement requires the school district to base any financially motivated layoffs on teacher seniority, with newer teachers getting laid off first. The provision included an exemption from the seniority layoff rule for what the agreement called underrepresented teachers.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes that the layoff policy discriminates based on race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Editorial Board says all hiring and firing decisions should be based on performance and job qualifications and not on race or seniority.

Michael Harriot, a writer and cultural critic, writes that MPS’ hiring policy historically favored white teachers and that a policy firing teachers based on seniority would cause more minority teachers to lose their jobs before white teachers. Harriot says the white teachers in the district are not equipped to assist minority students, so they would also be fired first in a merit-based system.

Minneapolis Schools Discriminate by Race | The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

“School districts ought to hire and fire based on job qualifications and performance, which would prevent an unintended disparate impact on minorities. But unions oppose personnel decisions based on merit because this could undermine labor solidarity. Minneapolis is instead discriminating by race. … [The agreement] states that the exception to the senior layoff rule is intended to ‘remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination’ and that ‘past discrimination by the district disproportionately impacted the hiring of underrepresented teachers.’ If the district is sued, it will have to substantiate this claim. It may also be hoping to dodge strict scrutiny legal review by not explicitly referring to racial classifications. The undefined term “underrepresented” could be interpreted to include low-income teachers. But what matters is how the rule is applied. … When institutions favor certain racial groups, they discriminate against individuals of other groups. … The Minneapolis teachers contract underscores why the [U.S. Supreme Court] Justices need to state clearly that racial preferences are always constitutionally forbidden.”

The whitelash behind Minneapolis’ plan to fire white teachers, explained | Michael Harriot, TheGrio

“Somehow people who lack critical thinking skills and seasoning [sic] experience can be beguiled into believing a contract that was collectively bargained by a majority-white coalition is ‘anti-white.’ Perhaps they are willing to ignore the ‘past discrimination’ part of the story. … For most of its existence, the district’s hiring policy not only favored white teachers, but it did so to the detriment of its non-white students. But, for some reason, Fox News pundits and right-wing propagandists don’t seem interested in this part of the story. … Most of MPS’s students are non-white. Most of its teachers are white. According to the district’s own data, most of the non-white students are lagging behind white students. And, according to people who know things, students of color do better when they are taught by educators of color. So, I’m not assuming that the white teachers are the worst teachers; I am assuming that most of the teachers are less equipped to teach most of the students. … To become more equitable for its students, the cohort of teachers must be more diverse. To become financially solvent, the district must cut staff. The only path to better schools, more educated children and a financially stable district is to fire white teachers.”

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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

Upcoming school board elections

Idaho

We’re covering school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats are up for election, including special elections for three at-large seats. 

How school board candidates endorsed by DeSantis and Crist fared in Florida’s Aug. 23 school board elections

On Aug. 23, Florida’s 69 school districts held school board primary elections. The Republican and Democratic nominees for governor—Gov. Ron Desantis (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D)—endorsed candidates.  

DeSantis endorsed 30 candidates. Twenty-five of the candidates won outright or advanced to a Nov. 8 general election, an 83% success rate. Crist endorsed seven school board candidates, five of whom won outright or advanced to the general—a 71% success rate.  

Politico’s Andrew Atterbury wrote, “Florida Republicans, led by DeSantis, poured thousands of dollars into school board races this year and offered up endorsements in historically nonpartisan races to push their education policies at the local level. Democrats followed suit by endorsing candidates of their own, setting off a new elections battleground.” 

DeSantis said the candidates “are committed to the student-first principles of the DeSantis Education Agenda.” The DeSantis Education Agenda is a 10-point plan. The plan’s planks include “Keep Schools Open and Reject Lockdowns,” “Ensure Parental Rights in Education and Keep Woke Gender Ideology Out of Schools,” and “Increase Teacher Pay.” 

Crist said he endorsed candidates who are “keeping politics out of the classroom, protecting our students’ freedom to learn, and truly defending parental rights.”

Crist backed candidates in Lee, Marion, Polk, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties. Both DeSantis and Crist backed candidates in Hillsborough. DeSantis endorsed incumbent Stacy Hahn, who won her election for District 2 outright. Crist backed District 6 At-Large incumbent Karen Perez, who also won her election outright.

In our Aug. 17 edition, we looked at some of the Florida races we identified as part of our project on conflicts in school board elections. That project tracks elections where candidates take a stance on race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and/or sex and gender in schools. 

Our list included elections for seats on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools school board, the state’s largest district. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) endorsed two candidates—Roberto Alonso (District 4) and Monica Colucci (District 8). Alonso defeated two candidates to win his election outright with 57.3% of the vote. Colucci defeated incumbent Marta Pérez with 53.7%. Perez held the seat since 1998. Pérez voted to approve a mask mandate the district implemented in August 2021. The wins give conservative board members a majority on the school board

DeSantis-backed candidates won outright in Sarasota and Duval counties. Those school boards will now also have a conservative majority. 

We’ll bring you more coverage of the general elections in November. Meanwhile, click here to see election results for school districts within our scope. 

DeSantis removes four Broward County School Board members

On Aug. 26, DeSantis removed four members of the Broward County School Board for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, and incompetence,” following a grand jury’s 2021 recommendations. After the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, DeSantis requested the state Supreme Court convene the grand jury to investigate the management of an ongoing safety and capital improvement program first approved in 2014.

DeSantis removed Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson and appointed replacements. The appointed members were sworn in Aug. 30.

The grand jury’s report found that five board members—Good, Korn, Murray, Levinson, and Rosalind Osgood—mismanaged the STAR program, an $800 million bond apportioned for safety and renovations. The jury recommended DeSantis remove the board members. The program was originally scheduled for completion in 2021 but is not expected to be completed until 2025.

Osgood, a state senator, no longer serves on the Broward County School Board. Osgood released a statement, saying, “It is my personal belief that unless someone commits a crime, no one has the right to remove them because then they go against the voters’ choice. And no crime was committed here or we would have been arrested.”

Stand with Parkland, a group of parents whose children were victims in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, released a statement: “We applaud the Governor’s action to follow the recommendation from Florida’s 20th Statewide Grand Jury and remove the Broward School Board members — citing their gross-negligence, misfeasance, malfeasance, and shear incompetence caused the mishandling of many of the aspects of the tragic date that took the lives of so many at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said, “I do not support taking any elected officials out, especially ones who did not commit any crime. It’s politics over people, that’s what it is in a nutshell.”

DeSantis appointed Torey Alston, Kevin Tynan, Ryan Reiter, and Nandy Serrano. All are registered Republicans. 

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 general election for Chandler Unified School District Governing Board At-large in Arizona. Incumbent Lara Bruner is running for re-election against challenger Kurt Rohrs. 

Two seats on the board are up for election. 

Here’s how Bruner responded to the question “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • “All CUSD children deserve excellent teachers dedicated to continual growth through district and outside professional development opportunities.
  • “All CUSD children deserve evidence-based curricula at the appropriate level of rigor, whether they perform at grade level, need interventions, or require acceleration and enrichment.
  • “All CUSD children deserve physically and emotionally safe schools where they can thrive.”

Click here to read the rest of Bruners’ responses. 

Here’s how Rohrs responded to the question “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • “Education Fundamentals should be the primary focus of Curriculum. Achieve Minimum 50% Reading and Math proficiency at all schools.
  • “Political and Social Activism has no place in our classrooms. Don’t use Classrooms to promote personal agendas.
  • Let Teachers Teach. Provide a safe, supportive, and secure environment for teachers to practice their craft.”

Click here to read the rest of Rohrs’ responses. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains more than 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 mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.48 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,277 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.48 candidates per seat is 24% more than in 2020.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #27

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues:  The debate over literacy and how to teach reading 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Understanding the country’s more than 82,000 school board members
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over literacy and how to teach reading 

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.

How educators teach children to read, especially in lower grades, is a topic of debate in the education community. Phonics-based teaching helps students learn to sound out and decode words. Whole-language instruction, on the other hand, suggests students can naturally learn to read through exposure to books with pictures and context that facilitate a memorization process. Some educators say they use both teaching methods to create a hybrid curriculum.

Emily Hanford writes that teachers who use hybrid models often believe learning to read is a natural process children pick up from engaging books that spark visual memorization. Hanford says guiding students through books with unfamiliar letter patterns and having students try to guess words based on pictures and context is ineffective for teaching reading. She says teachers should focus on teaching the sounds letters represent.

Kathleen Mikulka writes that phonics should be one part of a hybrid reading curriculum that also includes guided reading and other techniques from whole-language teaching. Mikulka says that phonics alone can be boring and unengaging for students and what she calls a middle way can give teachers more flexibility to work with students and personalize their instruction. 

Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way? | Emily Hanford, The New York Times

“It may seem as if kids are learning to read when they’re exposed to books, and some kids do pick up sound-letter correspondences quickly and easily. But the science shows clearly that to become a good reader, you must learn to decode words. Many whole-language proponents added some phonics to their approach and rebranded it ‘balanced literacy.’ But they did not give up their core belief that learning to read is a natural process that occurs when parents and teachers expose children to good books. So, while you’re likely to find some phonics lessons in a balanced-literacy classroom, you’re also likely to find a lot of other practices rooted in the idea that children learn to read by reading rather than by direct instruction in the relationship between sounds and letters. For example, teachers will give young children books that contain words with letter patterns the children haven’t yet been taught. You’ll see alphabetical ‘word walls’ that rest on the idea that learning to read is a visual memory process rather than a process of understanding how letters represent sounds. You’ll hear teachers telling kids to guess at words they don’t know based on context and pictures rather than systematically teaching children how to decode.”

TEACHER VOICE: We need phonics, along with other supports, for reading | Kathleen Mikulka, The Hechinger Report

“On the importance of explicit, systematic phonics instruction, I agree with Emily Hanford’s arguments in her recent article. I also believe that part of the reason we are still having this debate of phonics versus whole language versus balanced literacy is a matter of definitions. Phonics instruction that is all worksheets all the time and those little decodable books is boring. All picture books all the time is great fun, but students are being shortchanged without the phonics piece. … Since balanced literacy means different things to different people, we need to come up with an alternative name that encompasses the best of both worlds. This new program should be reading instruction, including systematic and explicit phonics, read aloud, guided reading, and free-choice reading. As I moved from teaching kindergarten to first and then second grade, as well as a curriculum coordinator and “response to intervention” teacher and coach, I have found this to be a powerful program for all students. … We have work to do. We must define and name this new middle way. We must keep the good parts of whole language and keep the pendulum from swinging all the way back to all phonics all the time.”

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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week

Florida

We covered school board primary elections in 24 districts on Aug. 23.

Click here for district-specific election results.

Upcoming school board elections

Idaho

We’re covering school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats are up for election, including special elections for three at-large seats. 

Understanding the country’s more than 82,000 school board members

The U.S. education system is a patchwork of local, state, and federal laws, regulations, and funding. The multilayered nature of this system has made comprehensive data on the number of school districts and school board members in the country difficult to assemble. However, a new Ballotpedia report fills this long-standing knowledge gap with objective, comprehensive data about all public school districts in the country. 

Our team combined original research—including scouring district and school board websites and email and phone outreach—with data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  

This report does not include private or charter schools, or schools lacking their own school board.

Here’s what we found.

The big picture

  • The U.S. school system is composed of 13,194 districts. 
  • Around 82,423 elected school board members represent those districts (this figure includes vacancies). 
  • The average number of school board members per district ranges from 3.45 in West Virginia to 9.97 in Connecticut. Hawaii, with one overarching school district across seven islands, has nine board members. 

Men are more likely to serve on school boards

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women made up approximately 50.1% of the total U.S. population in 2019, while men made up approximately 48.9% of the population. How does that compare to the composition of male and female school board members? 

Nationwide, 52.15% of school board members are male, while 43.29% are female. We were unable to determine gender information for the remaining school board members (around 4.5%). 

The gender breakdown varies by state. The five states with the highest percentage of male school board members are:

  • Arkansas (63.90%)
  • Oklahoma (63.65%)
  • Tennessee (63.57%)
  • Texas (63.35%)
  • Nebraska (60.74%)

The five states with the highest percentage of female school board members are:

  • Florida (59.02%)
  • Alaska (58.59%)
  • Maryland (56.98%)
  • Arizona (55.77%)
  • Maine (54.79%)

Texas has the most school districts and the most school board members, but Connecticut has the most board members per district

Every state has at least one school district—and most states have more than 100. Hawaii, with one district, is a bit of an outlier. The Hawaii State Department of Education is a single district that oversees 257 schools across seven islands. Similarly, one district oversees all 116 schools in the District of Columbia. 

Unlike Hawaii, most states have many districts, though the numbers vary dramatically. 

Texas has more districts than any other state—1,022 (California, with 977, is not far behind). Aside from Hawaii, Delaware, with 19 school districts, is the state with the fewest districts. 

While Texas has the highest number of school districts and school board members, Connecticut has the most school board members per district—9.97. Texas has 6.84 board members per district, while California has only 5.04. West Virginia has the fewest board members per district, at 3.45. 

Click here to explore this data and more.  

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! 

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains more than 30 questions, and you can respond to 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 mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.48 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,258 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.48 candidates per seat is 24% more than in 2020.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #26

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over training and licensing K-12 teachers
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • In your district: reader replies on changes in public education 
  • Twenty-eight percent of school board races this year are uncontested, up from 2021 
  • An overview of conflicts in Florida’s Aug. 24 school board elections
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over training and licensing K-12 teachers

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.

At a private event with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said, “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” In response, discussions arose related to teacher licensing and training requirements and how they affect K-12 education.

JC Bowman writes that Tennessee’s existing licensing system works well to make sure teachers are qualified. Bowman says parents rely on the state to make sure educators are sufficiently prepared to teach their children. He says states can trust established colleges of education to train teachers and prepare them for licensing and classroom instruction, making them an important partner in the qualification process. 

Larry Arnn writes that existing colleges of education do not adequately prepare educators for classroom instruction and promote bureaucratic control over K-12 education. Arnn says colleges of education promote instruction methods over content and reduce teaching to the level of technical science. He says parents would rather have the flexibility to pick schools and teachers than rely on the state to tell them who can teach their children. 

Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn disparaged teachers. Bill Lee should not tolerate that. | Opinion | JC Bowman, The Tennessean

“Teaching is a science, an art, and a craft. It is not for everyone. Most people do not want the responsibility, stress, low salary, or long hours. Parents do not just want anyone instructing their child. … Colleges of education are vital for teacher preparation, so every child has an effective teacher in the classroom. They are key partners in developing and strengthening K–12 education. They must identify and recruit future teachers and graduate them as certified teachers to meet the licensure requirements set by the state. We need them now more than ever because veteran teachers are quitting the profession. Teachers must pass an entrance requirement, maintain a certain GPA, and pass an exit exam to become certified. Licensure is the function of the state and the gatekeeper to employment. … Educators or colleges of education are not the problems. They certainly are not ‘dumb.’ Teachers contend with an array of student challenges — substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition and food insecurity, lack of access to health care, unsafe neighborhoods, and schools with limited resources.”

Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn: Why I defend education schools criticism | Opinion | Larry Arnn, The Tennessean

“I’ve made similar critiques of the education bureaucracy my entire career. This does not contradict my deep and abiding affection for teachers. … Dumb can mean ‘unintelligent,’ which I did not mean. Dumb also means ‘ill-conceived’ or ‘misdirected,’ which is, sadly, a fitting description for many education schools today. Professors of college and graduate education programs primarily teach methods. To be sure, methods are important in almost any human activity, but they are seldom the chief object. … Many education schools elevate methods over content as a way for a few to control many. They believe they can engineer society by ‘scientific’ criteria, thereby effectively reducing children to mere subjects of ongoing social experiments. More importantly, the education bureaucracy has controlled America’s schools for too long. Consider the current attack to deprive parents of charter school options — depriving them of the educational opportunities they desire and need for their children. … The solution is clear: recognize that the sovereign location in education is the local school, parents, and teachers, and not the district or the state. Give parents and teachers a choice.”

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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

Upcoming school board elections

Florida

We’re covering school board primary elections in 24 districts on Aug. 23. In Florida, state law requires that all school districts hold even-year nonpartisan school board primaries 11 weeks before the general election on a Tuesday. State law requires school districts to hold nonpartisan general elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This year, that means school districts are holding primaries on Aug. 23 and general elections Nov. 8. 

Click here for a full list of districts we’re covering.

Idaho

We’re covering school board general elections in Boise on Sept. 6. Five seats are up for election, including three at-large seats that are up in special elections. 

In your district: reader replies on changes in public education 

We recently asked readers the following question about the biggest changes they’ve seen in public education. 

“What is the biggest change you’ve seen in your time working in or observing the public education system?”

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses.

A retired teacher and candidate for school board from Virginia wrote:

“Implementation of PBIS [Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports] and restorative justice thereby taking away teacher autonomy in their classrooms.  Also, it releases students from accountability and consequences.” 

A school board member from Colorado wrote:

“Parental response to teachers. They are the enemy if something needs to be addressed, whether it is behavior, or learning. Parents used to partner with teachers for the benefit of their child’s education.”

A public school teacher from Virginia wrote:

“The stress levels have risen fairly dramatically. With COVID, virtual learning, and behavior issues with kids returning to school, it has been a very difficult time for educators.”

A school board member from New Jersey wrote:

“I feel there needs to be more emphasis placed on reading and math, as well as teaching more to the trades such as welding, auto mechanics, etc.  Too many students are graduating and are not proficient  in reading and math.  Reading opens the world and its possibilities to children.  As a board member, I am happy to see parents becoming more involved in their child’s educational process.”

Thank you to everyone who replied. We’ll be back in September with a new question, and we look forward to reading your responses! 

Twenty-eight percent of school board races this year are uncontested, up from 2021   

Since 2018, we’ve found that, on average, between 24% and 40% of school board elections within our coverage scope were uncontested—meaning no more than one candidate ran for a given seat—each year. Today, we’ll look at the percentage of uncontested school board elections this year and see how it stacks up to school board elections in previous years.   

For districts within our scope where filing deadlines have passed and we’ve processed the relevant data, 28% of school board races are uncontested. That’s down from 2018, 2019, and 2020. But there are more uncontested seats this year than in 2021, when 24% of school board races in our scope were uncontested. 

That figure will likely change before the end of the year as filing deadlines pass and we finish gathering candidate filing information. 

In 2020, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kentucky had the highest percentage of uncontested school board elections. In each case, more than 50% of all the school board elections we covered were uncontested. In 2020, School districts in our scope in 11 states had no uncontested school board races. 

This year, states in which more than 50% of school board races within our scope are uncontested are Alabama (66%) and New York (57%). In Texas, 39% of school board races are uncontested, followed by Nebraska (36%), California (35%), and Utah (35%). On the low end, school districts in eight states—including Idaho, Missouri, and Nevada—have no uncontested school board races. In Florida, 5% of school board races are uncontested, while 17% of school board races in Kentucky and Wisconsin uncontested. 

We’ll bring you an update on these figures later this year once all school districts within our scope have completed general and primary elections. 

To see more statistics on school board elections, click here

An overview of conflicts in Florida’s Aug. 24 school board elections

We’ve talked before in this newsletters about our project tracking conflicts in school board elections. Since 2021, we’ve identified 977 school districts in 44 states where candidates took a stance on race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and/or sex and gender in schools. 

Florida school districts are holding general elections Aug. 24. Let’s take a look at the districts where we’ve identified candidates who have taken a position on one or more of the above issues. 

Overall, we’ve identified school board races in 36 Florida school districts where race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, or sex and gender in schools have been issues in a school board election. 

  • Candidates have taken a stance on race in education/critical race theory in races in 34 school districts.
  • Candidates have taken a stance on responses to the coronavirus pandemic in 25 districts.
  • Candidates have taken a stance on sex and gender in schools in 32 districts. 

The districts range in size and location. The list includes Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the state’s largest district when measured by student enrollment. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has endorsed two candidates running for Miami-Dade County Public Schools—Roberto Alonso and Monica Colucci. On his campaign website, Alonso says he opposes “attempts to impose Critical Race Theory and other extreme liberal agendas in K-12.” Alonso is running for the District 4 seat against Maribel Balbin and Kevin Menendez Macki. Colucci says she opposes “Critical Race Theory and other extreme liberal agendas that harm our kids.” Collucci is running for the District 8 seat against incumbent Marta Pérez. Perez was first elected in 1997. 

You can read more about school board elections in Miami-Dade County Public Schools here. 

Other districts we’ve identified as part of our conflicts research include:

Click here to learn more about our research on conflicts in school board elections. 

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! 

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here 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 mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #25

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s more than 13,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over critical race theory and its effect on students
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • In your district: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your time in the public education system?
  • Texas State Board of Education discusses changes to the state’s social studies curriculum
  • Parents sue Tennessee school district over curriculum including race and gender topics
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over critical race theory and its effect on students

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.

The definition of critical race theory (CRT), CRT’s place in K-12 public schools, and the existence of CRT in K-12 public schools have been subjects of debate in recent years. This section features two perspectives on the CRT conversation in California. For more perspectives, check out our article on the main areas of inquiry and disagreement related to CRT, where we’ve curated 16 arguments and 46 separate claims related to CRT’s history, theory, and practice.

Jill Kerper Mora writes that CRT helps explain how laws and policies can promote racial inequalities. Mora says CRT in schools can help students think critically about civics and society and can help them meet California state education standards. She also says arguments opposing CRT concepts misconstrue the theory to make it sound unreasonable.

Mark Powell says CRT is an idea that suggests American laws and institutions are inherently racist and designed by white people to promote their interests and subjugate people of color. Powell says the theory puts people into oppressed and oppressor groups based on the color of their skin, which he says is divisive and damaging to kids under 16. 

‘Critical Race Theory’ Is Now a Dangerously Divisive Straw Man in Our Schools | Jill Kerper Mora, Times of San Diego

“As its name suggests, CRT is a theory — a system of ideas and general principles that is intended to explain how some laws and public policies perpetuate racial inequality and discrimination. The purpose of CRT is to promote critical thinking and rigorous analysis to overcome and rectify injustices that can occur in a racially, culturally and linguistically diverse society. These academic objectives are aligned with the learning outcomes articulated in the state-adopted curriculum standards approved by the Legislature and the State Board of Education for the core content of American history and ethnic studies courses. Unfortunately, critical race theory is being used as a straw man by opportunistic politicians and others who want to promote, rather than resolve, conflict to further their own dubious agendas. … The controversy generated by the opponents of critical race theory is especially problematic since public school teachers have a responsibility to ensure that their students meet the state curriculum standards. Teachers design courses that conform to the requirements in the authorizing statute and other legal requirements for curriculum in California. … Teachers need to be supported in creating opportunities in their classrooms for students to examine the role of racism as a divisive force throughout history and in the modern world.”

The Risks of Teaching History Through the Lens of Critical Race Theory | Mark Powell, Times of San Diego

“Critical race theory, as the 40-year-old thesis is popularly understood, suggests that institutions and laws are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. This controversial theory should not be taught in public schools, especially to students between 6 and 16 — a time when children are establishing their sense of identity. During these years, children make strides toward adulthood by developing a sense of self-esteem and individuality. … Critical race theory suggests that American institutions, laws, and history are inherently racist. It argues that white people have put up social, economic, and legal barriers between the races in order to maintain their elite status, both economically and politically. The result is not equality or justice. Instead, people are categorized. One’s gender, race, or sexual orientation makes you either the “oppressed” or an “oppressor,” a status from which you are freed only when existing societal structures are overthrown. Supporters of critical race theory suggest those who don’t subscribe to it are enemies in the fight to defeat racism. … But critical race theory is not history; it is an arcane academic concept and should be treated as such. To teach it would be a divisive prescription for addressing racial issues.”

In your district: the biggest changes in public education

School districts around the country face diverse issues and challenges. We want to hear what’s happening in your school district. Complete the very brief survey below—anonymously if you prefer—and we may share your response with fellow subscribers in an upcoming newsletter.

Today’s question:

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in your time working in or observing the public education system?

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 all of the more than 13,000 districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week

Tennessee

We covered the following school board general elections on Aug. 4. Select a district to see results. 

Minnesota

We covered the following school board primary elections on Aug. 9.

Upcoming school board elections

Florida

We’re covering school board primary elections in 24 districts on Aug. 23. Click here for a full list of districts.

Texas State Board of Education discusses changes to the state’s social studies curriculum

In an Aug. 1 meeting, the Texas State Board of Education began discussing proposed changes to the state’s social studies curriculum—particularly U.S. history—that would align with Senate Bill 3. Senate Bill 3, which went into effect in December 2021, prohibits teaching what it defines as divisive concepts. Examples include promoting ideas that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” and that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

The state board is responsible for updating the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards every eight years. 

Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), who authored Senate Bill 3, spoke to the board to offer guidance on how the law works. Hughes said the “bill is not an attempt to sanitize or to teach our history in any other way than the truth—the good, the bad and the ugly—and those difficult things that we’ve been through and those things we’ve overcome.” Hughes also said, “No one is saying that we don’t have systemic racism. But what we’re saying is, we’ve made a lot of progress. We have a long way to go. But the way to get there is to come together as Americans.”

State Board of Education member Aicha Davis (D) said Senate Bill 3 has been damaging to the public school system: “We always talk about teachers leaving in droves and this was one of the reasons.” Davis said, “Teachers were literally scared to teach even the TEKS that existed because of this.”

The proposed curriculum updates are available for review on the Texas Education Agency’s website and are open for public comment. The Texas State Board of Education will vote on proposed changes to the curriculum in November. 

 Learn who sets K-12 curriculum in public schools across the 50 states here

Parents sue Tennessee school district over curriculum including race and gender topics

On July 8, the group Parents’ Choice Tennessee sued Williamson County school district officials for allegedly violating state laws restricting teachings on race and gender.

Tennessee House Bill 580, approved on June 1, prohibits school districts from incorporating materials into the curriculum that portray the United States as racist or sexist, or that make students feel uncomfortable because of their race or sex. Parents’ Choice Tennessee claims the school district’s English/language arts curriculum contains age-inappropriate material that discusses topics of race. The group is seeking to have the school district permanently remove the curriculum. 

Trisha Lucente, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and the founder of Parents’ Choice Tennessee, said that she would prefer a “true English Language Arts curriculum that teaches phonics, classical literature, and is free of any politics or political agenda.” 

Jennifer Cortez, co-founder of an organization that advocates for students of color in the school district, said, “[m]y daughter went through these Civil Rights modules and didn’t feel one ounce of white guilt about it. She just felt sad that that happened. Meanwhile, our students of color are dealing with actual harassment.”

The case was filed in Tennessee’s Twenty-First Judicial District.

Click here to learn more about responses to trends in public education curriculum development.

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the Nov. 8 Wake County Public School System school board general elections in North Carolina. Michael T. Williams is running for election to represent District 4, while Jacob Arthur is running to represent District 7. 

Nine seats on the board are up for election. 

Here’s how Williams responded to the question “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”

“I am passionate about ensuring that our schools have the human, physical, fiscal, technological, and other resources necessary to meet the needs of the students we serve. While the tax base in our community may not be as high as some other parts of the district, our students are just as valuable and important as those in the more affluent areas of the district. It is incumbent upon us as parents, guardians, and concerned citizens to ensure that every student in our area receives a quality education from highly qualified professionals, in safe and modern facilities replete with state of the art technological and instructional resources.”

Click here to read the rest of Williams’ responses. 

Here’s how Arthur responded to the question “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”

“There is no reason Wake County Public Schools should not be the best in the nation. For far too long, the school board has flown under the radar to implement their social agenda rather than focusing on sound education. This has resulted in falling proficiency rates in reading and math, year over year for the past decade. It is time to change leadership and head in a new direction by empowering parents, investing in students and supporting teachers.”

Click here to read the rest of Arthur’s responses.  

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

The survey contains more than 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 that appears in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #24

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s 14,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over grouping higher-performing students into separate classes 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law
  • Three Republicans ran in Aug. 2 primary for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction; incumbent Kathy Hoffman unopposed in Democratic primary 
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues

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.

The debate over grouping higher-performing students into separate classes

Educators and policymakers have long debated whether grouping higher-performing students into separate, more challenging classes (also known as tracking) is a good policy. For example, in 2014, the San Francisco Unified School District implemented a detracking policy that eliminated accelerated math classes in middle school, prompting concern from some parents. In 2021, the California Department of Education proposed a similar change in a draft of non-binding math guidelines. Those guidelines are still being debated today. 

In this section, we’ll look at two perspectives on the issue. 

Frederick Hess writes that higher-performing students should have opportunities to take more challenging courses. Hess says eliminating gifted programs from public schools would hold back students who master content and would reduce opportunities for low-income students to excel since they would not have the financial resources to switch to a more challenging private school.

Jo Boaler writes that school districts like San Francisco Unified that eliminated or partially eliminated gifted programs experienced improvements in achievement. Boaler says separating students into different classes teaches them that they have fixed abilities and are not capable of excelling in a subject. 

Gifted Education Is Under Attack | Frederick Hess, Forbes

“Of course, gifted programs should be inclusive and should be reformed as necessary to ensure that they are. At the same time, Nobel laureate David Card has concluded that ‘a separate classroom environment is more effective for’ gifted learners—especially those who are disadvantaged. … It’s useful to ground this discussion by asking two straightforward questions. First, when it comes to chess, soccer, trumpet, singing, or dance, do some children have exceptional gifts and stand to benefit from exceptionally challenging instruction? Second, does this also apply to endeavors like writing, algebra, and biology? If one accepts that people are born with an array of talents, and that students and society benefit when schools cultivate those talents, the conversation about gifted education should be how to do it fairly, responsibly, and effectively. Unfortunately, de Blasio-style attacks on gifted education are likely to disappoint on all of those grounds. After all, when schools abandon gifted learners, affluent families have options: They’ll move their kids to private schools or pony up for tutors, enrichment programs, and online courses. It’s low-income students who will get lost along the way.”

OPINION: Separating ‘gifted’ children hasn’t led to better achievement | Jo Boaler, The Hechinger Report

“Many believe that children learn more effectively in schools or classes with similar learners, but are they right? … [A]fter San Francisco Unified de-tracked math, the proportion of students failing algebra fell from 40 percent to 8 percent and the proportion of students taking advanced classes rose to a third, the highest percentage in district history. … Eight Bay Area school districts found similar results when they de-tracked middle-school mathematics and provided professional development to teachers. In 2014, 63 percent of students were in advanced classes, whereas in 2015 only 12 percent were in advanced classes and everyone else was taking Math 8. … Why do these results arise? It seems to make sense that learners who are ready for different content are grouped together, and students who are high-achieving push ahead and take advanced classes, but there’s a problem with such an approach. We are at a point where the negative impacts of fixed-ability thinking are undeniable. And when we separate students into different classes, the message we send them is that their ability is fixed. When students, instead, embrace the knowledge that there are no limits to their learning, outcomes improve.”

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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

California

The filing deadline for districts holding Nov. 8 general elections is Aug. 12. However, candidates have an additional five days to file if no incumbents file by Aug. 12. The extended deadline does not apply if the incumbent is not eligible to run for re-election. Click here to see a full list of districts whose general elections we’re covering Nov. 8. 

Upcoming school board elections

Tennessee

We’re covering the following school board general elections on Aug. 4.

Minnesota

We’re covering the following school board primary elections on Aug. 9.

Florida

We’re covering school board primary elections in 24 districts on Aug. 23. Click here for a full list of districts. 

Oklahoma State Board of Education censures two school districts for violating state law 

On July 28, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-2 to downgrade the accreditation status of Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools. The Board said the districts violated a 2021 law supporters say prohibits the teaching of critical race theory. 

The Board’s action against Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools is the first time the law has been enforced in the state. 

The Board downgraded Tulsa Public Schools and Mustang Public Schools from “accredited” to “accredited with warning” for incidents this year and in 2021. The Tulsa Public Schools 2021 incident stemmed from a high school teacher’s complaint that mandatory staff training material contained “statements that specifically shame white people for past offenses in history, and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature.” The Board downgraded Mustang Public Schools because of a teacher’s January 2022 anti-bullying lesson. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed HB 1775 into law on May 7, 2021. HB 1775 includes a list of concepts teachers, administrators, and other school staff are prohibited from including in courses, such as the idea that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” and “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” 

When he signed HB 1775, Stitt said, “I firmly believe that not one cent of tax payer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex.”

Brad Clark, the general counsel for the Oklahoma Department of Education, advised downgrading Tulsa Public Schools to “accredited with deficiencies,” a less severe demotion than “accredited with warning.” Board member Brian Bobek, however, said the violation was serious enough to warrant a stronger response. Board member Estela Hernandez, who voted for the demotion, later said the Board’s decision was “sufficient in this case because we need to send a message that the deliberate breaking of the law needs to be on probation.”

Board members said they voted to downgrade Mustang Public Schools to “accredited with warning” to stay consistent with the decision they made about Tulsa Public Schools. 

Two board members voted against downgrading the districts, including Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Carlisha Bradley. Hoffmeister said, “The penalties are heavily weighted against Tulsa Public Schools because of an obsession or peculiar focus that the governor has with them and their superintendent. And then Mustang became collateral damage.”

The districts have one year to make changes and improve their accreditation status. The Oklahoma Department of Education could revoke the districts’ accreditation altogether if more violations occur, forcing the districts to close. 

Three Republicans ran in Aug. 2 primary for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction; incumbent Kathy Hoffman unopposed in Democratic primary

Arizona held Republican and Democratic primaries for superintendent of public instruction on Aug. 2. Incumbent Kathy Hoffman (D) ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Three candidates appeared on the ballot in the Republican primary—Tom Horne, Shiry Sapir, and Michelle Udall. Tiffany Asch and Kara Woods ran as write-in candidates in the Republican primary. 

As of this writing, the Republican primary had not been called. With an estimated 80% of the vote counted, Horne led with 42.8% to Sapir’s 31.7% and Udall’s 25.4%. 

According to Politico’s Juan Perez Jr., “The heated contest to oversee public schooling for more than 1 million children marks a test of how a swing-state Democrat might hold onto their office as the Republican Party increasingly builds an offensive on reshaping education.”

Hoffman, a former pre-school teacher and speech-language pathologist, was first elected in 2018, defeating Frank Riggs (R) 51.6% to 48.4% in the general election. Hoffmann was the first Democrat in the state to win the office since 1995. 

Horne served as the state attorney general from 2011 to 2015. Before that, he served as the Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2003 to 2011. Horne said he would focus on fighting critical race theory, stopping cancel culture, and promoting patriotism and quality education. 

Sapir, a real estate broker, said she pulled her children out of the public school system when, during the pandemic, the school implemented remote instruction. Sapir listed her priorities as empowering parents and putting children ahead of special interest groups. She has also said  “education needs to return to the basics.” 

Udall was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2016. She has also served as a school board member. Udall said she ran to oppose “school closures, contentious mandates, and critical race theory.” 

The Republican candidates spoke out against pandemic policies that closed schools and criticized what they called critical race theory. Udall said, “​​You can teach the facts, you can teach what happened, and you can help students understand the horrible things that people went through and the horrible outcomes that racism brings. Students need to know that history. Those are skills and knowledge they need to be successful. Whereas critical race theory and the gender identity stuff, those are not.”

Horne has campaigned on a similar platform: “I want to get rid of the distractions, which in addition to being distractions from academics, are inherently evil and immoral and backwards in emphasizing race and sexuality rather than teaching kids to treat each other as individuals.” 

Sapir has emphasized her status as an outsider, saying, “I am not coming from the education apparatus at all. We are where we’re at because of the people that have been in politics in education.”

Hoffman said she will focus on policies to reverse pandemic-related learning loss in students.

Hoffman criticized her Republican opponents for having “this very negative rhetoric of distrust around our public schools in a time when our schools need our support more than ever.” 

Hoffman has at times clashed with Gov. Doug Ducey (R) over pandemic policies. In April 2021, Ducey rescinded a universal school mask mandate. Hoffman said Ducey’s action “destabilizes school communities as they end what has arguably been the most challenging year for education.” 

The superintendent of public instruction oversees the state’s public school system and directs the Department of Education.

Arizona is one of seven states holding elections this year for superintendent of education. The position is elected in only 12 states. The superintendent is appointed in the remaining 38 states. 

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! 

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here 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 populate the information that appears in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

This year, 2.42 candidates are running for each seat in the 1,156 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.42 candidates per seat is 22% more than in 2020.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #23

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s 14,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program expansion 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • In your district: reader replies on teacher staffing levels 
  • North Carolina bill would change state board of education members from gubernatorial appointees to elected officials  
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues

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.

The debate over Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program expansion

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed House Bill 2853 into law on July 7 allowing K-12 students to use taxpayer-funded Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to attend schools or pay for curriculum or tutoring outside the public school system.

Vince Roig and Paul Luna with the Helios Education Foundation write that Arizona’s ESAs will only benefit the children of rich families who can afford home and private schooling options without the savings accounts. They say the law does not hold parents accountable for ESA expenditures. Roig and Luna say the funds should be directed to public schools, which can be held accountable through standardized testing, to benefit less wealthy families.

Arizona House Majority Leader Benjamin Toma writes that the ESA program will not hurt public schools or poorer students who attend them. Toma says the state increased public school funding. He says the ESAs will give all families greater flexibility, and improve academic performance. Toma also compared the ESA program to Arizona’s unlimited public school open enrollment and charter school policies, which he says improved educational outcomes in the state.

Arizona students are getting a raw deal with massive voucher expansion | Vince Roig and Paul Luna, USA Today

“Make no mistake: Only an elite few will benefit from an unprecedented and unpopular expansion of education savings accounts (ESAs), while more than one million Arizona public school students will continue to attend some of the lowest-funded schools in the country. … Right now, the state should be focused on access, accountability and attainment. … Instead, the majority of legislators chose to greatly expand education savings accounts that will help wealthy parents pay for tuition at expensive private schools and other extravagances that Arizona’s neediest children will never be able to afford. … This new law does not hold parents accountable for how they spend their ESA withdrawals. The state will never know if $300 million or more spent on ESAs will yield improved learning. By contrast, public school students will continue to take annual assessments, and their schools will be graded on those results.”

Arizona school choice law sets new standard for nation | Benjamin Toma, Fox News

“The truth is ESAs won’t cripple public schools. But we think it will make them better. After years of unlimited district open enrollment and the highest percentage of students in charter schools in the nation, choosing your child’s school – instead of being directed by the government – is the norm here. The results: Arizona schools lead the nation in academic growth for both poor and nonpoor students per the Stanford Opportunity Project. We invested more than $1 billion in our school finance formula this year, most of which was to show holdouts that we weren’t giving up on our public schools and were willing to deal. … School choice opponents have been wrong for decades. Each advance is doggedly opposed because they know parents won’t easily relinquish freedom once enjoyed.”

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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

Upcoming school board elections

Tennessee

We’re covering the following school board general elections on Aug. 4.

Minnesota

We’re covering the following school board primary elections on Aug. 9.

In your district: reader replies on teacher staffing levels

We recently asked readers the following question about teacher staffing in their school districts:


News outlets have reported that some districts face a teacher shortage heading into the 2022-2023 school year. Is this an issue in a school district near you? What challenges does it present for the district? How is the district dealing with these challenges, if they exist?

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses.

Dawn, a school board member from Virginia, wrote: 

“We have a teacher vacancy rate of 9%. Our HR department is trying to get creative. We are supporting people with degrees to become licensed and adding video classrooms to name a couple.”

Marc, a school board member from Vermont, wrote:

“Not in our district. We started searches early, pay reasonably and provide an atmosphere teachers enjoy teaching in.”

Kevin, a social studies high school teacher from Virginia, wrote: 

“Yes, this has been an issue with my school district, where some schools have lost close to half their staff. Being fully staffed will be a huge challenge. My district has mainly responded through financial compensation, including a salary increase, signing bonus, and a $2,000 bonus for all teachers. The district is also looking to improve substitute pay as we have a shortage there too, which leads to teachers losing their planning time to cover for colleagues. 

Suzanne, a community member from Florida, wrote:

“Yes Marion County School District, Florida, is facing a big need for teachers; the district is having a hiring fair. The problem that I see is two fold:  the district has too many 6 figure administrators with a big staffing apparatus and to my knowledge the district has very little if any parental input and advisement on any educational issues. The Board has problems with Conservatives elected or appointed to the Board.  ”

Lynn, a reader from North Carolina who works to elect school board members, wrote:


“Yes, it is a big issue. The superintendent though is not willing to publicly admit it is an issue. She spent a good deal of time a few weeks ago verbally dismissing ‘the misinformation.’ However the public records of Personnel Reports show a different story. We believe there will be big issues in staffing at the start of the school year as there were all year last year. The district has offered a $10,000 sign on bonus and implemented several programs to bring in lateral entry recruits.”

We’ll be back in August with a new reader survey, and we look forward to reading your responses! 

North Carolina bill would change state board of education members from gubernatorial appointees to elected officials 

In North Carolina, a recent bill to amend the constitution would have changed the way the state selected its state board of education members.  

State Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R) introduced House Bill 1173 on June 15. HB 1173 would have made state board of education member an elected position. Currently, the governor appoints 11 of the 13 members of the board (subject to Senate confirmation) to eight year terms. The lieutenant governor and state treasurer are also members. The bill would also have made the superintendent of education the chair of the board. Currently, the superintendent is the secretary of the board and a non-voting member.

Under the bill, board members would be elected by congressional districts.  

The House Education Committee approved the bill 14-7 along partisan lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it. On June 30, the bill was removed from the calendar and sent to the House Rules Committee before the legislative session ended. According to NC Policy Watch, the bill is likely to be taken up later in the year. 

Democratic legislators who opposed the bill said electing board members would politicize the board. 


State Rep. Cecil Brockman (D) said, “I have no idea on God’s green earth why we would make our officials who are supposed to be nonpartisan have to raise money and become partisan.”

Blackwell has said he introduced the bill because “parents and voters feel like they need to have more say in what is happening in our schools, what kind of instruction is being delivered, what kind of leaders we have, and this is designed to give them that voice.” 

According to the Education Commission of the States (ECS), North Carolina is one of 34 states in which the governor appoints all or most of the state board of education members. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, all or most members are elected. Neither Minnesota nor Wisconsin have a state board of education. 

This year, seven states are holding elections for state board of education:

The North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction is Catherine Truitt (R). Truitt was elected in 2020. The position of superintendent exists in all 50 states. Twelve state superintendents are elected, 38 are appointed.

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! 

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. 

In the 2020 election cycle, 4,745 candidates completed the survey. 

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here 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 populate the information that appears in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

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!

School board candidates per seat up for election

Since 2018, we’ve tracked the ratio of school board candidates to seats up for election within our coverage scope. Greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance can result in more candidates running for each office. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  
This year, 2.4 candidates are running for each seat in the 1148 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. The 2.4 candidates per seat is 21% more than in 2020.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #22

Welcome to Hall Pass. This newsletter keeps you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance. Each week, we bring you a roundup of the latest on school board elections, along with sharp commentary and research from across the political spectrum on the issues confronting school boards in the country’s 14,000 school districts. We’ll also bring you the latest on school board elections and recall efforts, including candidate filing deadlines and election results.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over which books to include in school libraries 
  • Subscriber survey
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • A brief history of public education in early America
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey
  • School board candidates per seat up for election

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues

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.

The debate over which books to include in school libraries

Whether certain books addressing topics related to sex and gender are age-appropriate and ought to be included in school libraries has been a topic of debate in recent months. Debate at school board meetings has often centered on a handful of books, such as Gender Queer: A Memoir

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board writes that parents and school boards should not seek the removal of books discussing sex and gender, such as Gender Queer: A Memoir and Lawn Boy, from school libraries. The Editorial Board says removing such books would be harmful to students and prevent them from exploring different perspectives and expanding their knowledge. The Board also says the books are not pornographic, so parents do not need to protect their children from the material.

Katelynn Richardson writes that Gender Queer: A Memoir contains sexually explicit material that is not age-appropriate for minors and promotes progressive ideas over educational value. Richardson says removing explicit content from school libraries is not the same as book banning or censorship. She says it is the job of parents to control the books their kids read in the same way they control what movies they watch and what video games they play.

Editorial: Book banning at school libraries blinkers children in the worst way | The Editorial Board, The Chicago Tribune

“It’s too bad proponents of book banning can’t step off their soapboxes long enough to see the matter through the eyes of students — and their own children. School libraries add a unique element to the educational experience. They invite students to an expanse of knowledge, perspective and exploration beyond the bounds of what their district’s coursework offers. … Parents and community members hopping on board the book-banning bandwagon may think they’re safeguarding children — but they’re hurting them. A book that is actually pornographic should never find its way to a school district library shelf, or any public library shelf. But that’s not the case with the books being targeted. Both “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award that annually recognizes 10 books written for adults that have special appeal to youths ages 12 through 18. By calling for their removal — or incineration — conservatives are blinkering kids in the worst way.”

Removing explicit content from school libraries is not ‘book banning’ | Katelynn Richardson, The Washington Examiner

“People are sensitive to book banning. That’s a good thing. But special considerations apply to the catalogs in school libraries. It’s foolish to pretend, like the librarians featured in today’s New York Times story, that removing books like Gender Queer: A Memoir from schools due to sexually explicit material is a slippery slope to censorship. … Librarians would be in the spotlight less if they did their job and selected age-appropriate books that provide educational value, rather than ones that promote a progressive social agenda. I have no sympathy for anyone who loses her job because she wanted to put pornographic material within the reach of minors. While not a license for harassment, it’s absolutely fair for parents to question decisions, speak out at school board meetings, and publicly push back. This is not about viewpoint diversity. It’s about protecting children. Parents have always had the responsibility for overseeing what their children are exposed to: in movies, video games, activities, social life, and yes, books.”

Tell us what’s happening in a school district near you!  

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Today’s question

News outlets have reported that some districts face a teacher shortage heading into the 2022-2023 school year. Is this an issue in a school district near you? What challenges does it present for the district? How is the district dealing with these challenges, if they exist?

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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 all of the roughly 14,000 districts with elected school boards.

Election results from the past week

Maryland

We covered the following school board elections on July 19.

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

Michigan

  • Four seats on the Ann Arbor Public Schools school board are up for election Nov. 8. The filing deadline is July 26. 

New Jersey

  • Three seats on the Jersey City Public Schools school board are up for election Nov. 8. The filing deadline is July 25. 

Upcoming school board elections

Tennessee

We’re covering the following school board general elections on Aug. 4.

Minnesota

We’re covering the following school board primary elections on Aug. 9.

A brief history of school boards in early America

There are over 13,000 public school districts in the United States, most of them overseen by elected school board officials. But that hasn’t always been the case. Go back far enough and you’ll find a time when public education was virtually nonexistent. Today, we’re going to look at the development of school districts and school boards from the colonies through the beginning of the 19th century. We’ll be back in a future edition to continue our look at the development of public education through to the present.

Contemporary public education finds its clearest and most direct origins in 17th-century New England colonies. At the time, a widespread belief in the colonies and Europe was that education was a private concern. Sir William Berkeley, the governor of Virginia, said in 1671 that Virginia, in not providing free education, was following “the same course taken in England out of towns; every man according to his own ability in instructing his children.” But in New England, towns and eventually the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court had started taking public action related to education decades earlier.

Boston was the site of the country’s first public school. City officials hired a schoolmaster in 1635 to run the Boston Latin Grammar School. According to Wayne J. Urban and Jennings L. Wagoner, Jr. in their book American Education: A History, “Within the first decade of settlement, seven of the twenty-two towns in Massachusetts had taken some public action on behalf of schooling.”

In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court passed a law requiring the head of the household to provide education for his children in the home. In 1647, the General Court passed a law requiring towns to provide children with education. The purpose of the law—known as the Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647—was to ensure among other things that all people were literate enough to read the Bible. The law required towns with 50 or more families to hire a teacher for the purpose of teaching reading and writing. Towns with 100 or more families were required to maintain grammar schools. The law, reflecting a subtle shift away from the belief that education was merely a private concern, specified that towns could be fined for noncompliance.

The Massachusetts law did not establish compulsory schooling or require towns to pay the full cost of providing education. In most cases, families paid some amount of money in the form of tuition. 

Town meetings were the primary way early public schools in New England were managed. Over time, responsibility for the day-to-day operations of schools fell to selectmen, the town government’s executive committees, and later to committees appointed to inspect school performance and make hiring and firing recommendations. These committees operated as a kind of early school board. According to Northwestern Law Professor Nadav Shoked, the committees arose because of “the town meeting’s inability to provide specialized and ongoing administration.” 

A similar school governing structure spread beyond Boston through the colonial period. Shoked writes that “Wherever public education was introduced, a separate body to govern schools emerged.” 

Public support for education developed haltingly throughout the rest of the country, with some colonies—and, later, states—advancing public education more quickly than others. According to University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Derek W. Black, “Public education in the North had taken hold in the late 1700s and early 1800s and had developed substantially by the eve of the war. But in the South, before Reconstruction, education was only sporadically available through the patchwork efforts of public, private, and religious institutions.” In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a system of publicly-funded grammar schools in the Virginia General Assembly. “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” failed to pass. A revised bill, “An Act to Establish Public Education,” passed in 1796. 

Six of the original 13 states mentioned education in their constitutions—Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. 

The Congress of the Confederation approved ordinances in 1785 and 1787 that, in addition to setting procedures for admitting new states, set aside a portion of the land in the Northwest Territories for schools.

The Constitution, ratified in 1788, did not mention education.   

In 1789, the Massachusetts General Court passed the Massachusetts Education Act. The law adopted and reaffirmed many of the practices that had been commonplace in schools in towns like Boston, such as separate town committees charged with overseeing schools. The law also recognized, for the first time in the country’s history, the school district as a distinct legal entity. Throughout the 19th century, state courts would affirm the legal independence of the school district. Shoked writes that “by the nineteenth century’s final quarter, the school district’s status in American law, as a politically separate entity with secure governing powers, was unassailable.” 

We’ll be back in a future edition to look at the development of districts and school board governance from the rise of the common school movement in the 1830s to the present.

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! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the upcoming Aug. 4  Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education school board general elections in Tennessee. Four seats are up for election. The primary was May 3. 

Today, we’re featuring responses from Erin O’Hara Block (D), who is running to represent District 8, and Kelli Phillips (R), who is running to represent District 4. 

Here’s how O’Hara Block answered the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “The top priority for MNPS in the coming years is a daily focus on recovery, in both academics and mental health. After three years of disrupted schooling, students are struggling to learn and teachers struggling to teach when trauma, grief, and other mental health needs go unaddressed. As a board member, I will rally school leaders, school district officials, community members, and city leadership to ensure Nashville creates integrated systems to support the mental health of students and educators both inside and outside of school.
  • “Investing smartly to solve problems. This means ensuring we have the funding that we need to support our schools. We also must focus on the goals of the district AND individual needs of individual schools. Strategic focus on the district’s most pressing problems – early literacy, middle grades math, and preparation for college and career – will lead to progress.
  • “Creating great schools through strong leaders, teachers, and staff. A great school starts with the people in the building and we need to ensure the district provides the resources and structures to recruit, compensate, develop, support and retain high-quality teachers, leaders, counselors, and support staff for every school.”

Click here to read the rest of O’Hara Block’s answers. 

Here’s how Phillips answered the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  1. “LISTEN to parents and ensure their voice is heard when all board decisions are made about our schools – including masks.
  2. “END Critical Race Theory being taught in schools and the many ways politicians seek to push it via political learning such as the English “Wit and Wisdom” curriculum our schools are using
  3. “FOCUS on what matters – better student outcomes in core subjects such as English, Math and Science.”

Click here to read the rest of Phillips’ answers.

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. The survey contains more than 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 mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia. 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!