Taghall pass

Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics

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:

  • The debate over high school grade inflation and its effect on students 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • A look at Tarrant County school board election results
  • Extracurricular: links from around the web 
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over high school grade inflation and its effect on students 

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues facing school board members. 

Grade inflation refers to an upward trend in average grades students receive for a particular level of work. For example, if a student submitted an assignment and received a “B” one year, and the next year another student submitted the same level of work and received an “A,” grade inflation would have occurred. 

Below, Zachary Bleemer writes that grade inflation could benefit students and encourage them to graduate. Bleemer also says higher grades could give students the confidence to pursue what he considers more difficult subjects like science and math.

Brandon L. White says grade inflation is particularly harmful to students who are most likely to fail a class or drop out of school entirely. White says the lowered expectations harm all students and do not prepare them for careers or college.

Grade inflation is just plain bad. Right? Maybe not. | Zachary Bleemer, The Washington Post

“A series of recent studies by several independent teams of economists, though, have advanced a surprising hypothesis: that in many circumstances, grade inflation may be providing important benefits to many of today’s students. Everyone agrees that kids should learn more in school. Grade inflation may weaken some students’ incentive to study and could frustrate colleges’ ability to identify well-prepared applicants — but higher grades may also bolster some students’ confidence and encourage them into rigorous disciplines where they might succeed. …STEM courses tend to award lower average grades than other fields, and female students are more likely than male students to switch their fields of study if they earn low grades in introductory courses. As a result, inflating grades in STEM courses might increase the share of female students earning STEM degrees, narrowing the worrisome gender gap in those majors. … All of these studies focus on college grades, but the same arguments hold for high schools. Higher grades could mean less discouragement from challenging subjects and maybe even greater confidence and persistence to graduation.”

Rampant grade inflation is harming vulnerable high schoolers | Brandon L. Wright, Thomas Fordham Institute

“Pressure to boost those [graduation] rates, often due to school accountability policies, plays a role [in grade inflation]—but so do complex motivations like empathy and concern for kids’ future well-being. It’s these latter impulses that lead folks to believe that easing expectations, at least for disadvantaged and struggling students, is a victimless, thoughtful, and maybe even noble act. Though it does young people no real good to be awarded unearned diplomas. The harm done by lowered expectations doesn’t just befall the kids who are barely making it through high school. As illustrated by those profiled in the Globe, a disservice is being done to their high-achieving peers—not young people at risk of not graduating at all, but those who leave high school at the top of their class and under the impression that they’re fully ready for college, including elite schools like Bryn Mawr, B.U., and B.C. They discover—with surprise, pain, angst, embarrassment—that they’re nowhere near ready. The culprit is grade inflation, which occurs when subjective course grades exceed objective measures of performance.”

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

The following districts within our scope held elections on May 17:

New York

North Carolina

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

Minnesota

  • Five seats on the Minneapolis Public Schools board are up for general election on Nov. 8. A primary is scheduled for Aug. 9. The filing deadline for this election is May 31.

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Alabama and Georgia are holding primary and general elections on May 24. Districts in California are holding primary elections on June 7.

Alabama

We’re covering the following school board primary elections on May 24. General elections will be held Nov. 8.

Georgia

We’re covering the following school board elections on May 24. General elections will be held Nov. 8. 

California

We’re covering the following school board elections on June 7. 

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. We view candidates per seat as a proxy for interest in school board elections, sometimes driven by greater awareness of issues or conflicts around school board governance. Periods with more awareness or conflict tend to correlate with more candidates running for seats on school boards. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

In 2022, 2.5 candidates are running for each seat in the 508 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed. That represents a 29% increase in candidates per seat compared to 2020. 

A look at Tarrant County school board election results

On May 7, school districts across Texas—including some of the largest in the state—held school board general elections. Districts across the state, especially in Tarrant County, home of Fort Worth, saw conflicts about some of the biggest issues facing school boards today. 

The Texas Tribune’s Jason Beeferman wrote that “All but one of the 11 Tarrant County conservative school board candidates, who were backed this year by several high-profile donors and big-money PACs, defeated their opponents during Saturday’s local elections, according to unofficial results. The one candidate backed by the groups who didn’t win outright advances to a runoff election in June.” The candidates ran for seats in the Keller, Mansfield, Grapevine-Colleyville, and Carroll school districts.

Tarrant is the third-largest county in Texas. In 2020, President Joe Biden (D) received 49.3% of the vote in the county, while Donald Trump (R) received 49.1%. 

School board races in Texas are nonpartisan, though The Dallas Morning News’ Talia Richman writes “they have become extremely politicized in the past year as school boards tackled increasingly divisive — and high-profile — issues, including COVID-19 protocols and how to teach children about history, race, gender and sexuality.”

These nonpartisan races drew attention from the major political parties and satellite groups alike. Last December, The Texas Tribune reported the Texas Republican Party had formed a Local Government Committee, which would work to identify and back candidates in nonpartisan municipal races. The Texas Democratic Party also identifies and backs candidates through its Project LIFT initiative. 

The Dallas Morning News reported that “[a]t least 10 conservative PACs have launched in the past year in cities across the Dallas area with the goal of steering local districts in a more conservative direction.” Funding for PACs came in part from Patriot Mobile, a Grapevine-based cell phone company which the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Abby Church reported “poured $500,000 into a PAC to support candidates in the Carroll, Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller and Mansfield school districts, where the races included debates about critical race theory and what books are on library shelves.” 

Not all candidates backed by conservative organizations and PACs won their elections. According to The Texan, candidates in the Coppell Independent School District and Highland Park Independent School District elections were not successful. 

Below are details on a few of the Tarrant County school districts within our coverage scope. 

Keller Independent School District

Three at-large seats on the Keller Independent School District school board were up for election. 

Micah Young defeated incumbent Craig Allen 63.4% to 36.6% in election for Place 1. In the Place 2 general election, Joni Shaw Smith defeated Julie Nors and incumbent Karina Davis with 56.1% of the vote. In the Place 3 general election, Sandi Walker defeated James Duncan 69.2% to 30.8%. 

This year, around 13,000 people voted in the election. In both 2020 and 2018, elections for the two seats on the ballot were canceled due to a lack of opposition.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, all “the candidates backed by the conservative KISD Family Alliance and True Texas Project won seats.” The Texan reports that Young, Smith, and Walker were also backed by the 1776 Project PAC, which says it is fighting back against the teaching of Critical Race Theory. 

Mansfield Independent School District 

Four seats on the Mansfield Independent School District school board were up for election.

In the Place 3 general election, Craig Tipping and Benita Reed advanced to a June 18 runoff election. Tipping earned 49.2% of the vote to Reed’s 42.9%. Shawn Thompson earned 7.9%. In the Place 4 election, incumbent Keziah Valdes Farrar defeated Amanda Jackson Sneed 56.2% to 43.8%. In the Place 5 election, Bianca Benavides Anderson defeated Jo Anna Cardoza and Le Keishia Dawkins. Anderson won 51.5% of the vote to Cardoza’s 32.6% and Le Keishia Dawkins’s 15.9%. In the Place 7 election, Courtney Lackey Wilson defeated Yolanda McPherson 57.6% to 42.4%.

This year, around 10,300 people voted in the Mansfield Independent School District elections. In 2020, two seats—Place 6 and Place 7—were on the ballot. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the election date was moved from May to Nov. 3. The Place 6 race was uncontested. In the Place 7 race, 51,775 people voted in the general election, and 9,391 people voted in the Dec. 8 runoff. In 2018, three seats were on the ballot, and 10,454 people voted across all three races.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Patriot Mobile endorsed the candidates who won their elections. Patriot Mobile also endorsed Tipping, who will compete against Reed in a runoff election on June 18. The 1776 Project PAC also endorsed the highest vote-getters in all four races, including Tipping. 

Tracking school board conflicts

Since 2021, we’ve tracked conflicts in school board elections around the following topics: race in education/critical race theory, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and sex and gender in schools in school. To date, we’ve identified 695 school districts in 40 states where candidates took a stance on one of these issues. In the May 7 Texas elections alone, we identified 28 districts where one or more candidates took a stance on at least one of these topics. 

You can read more about our research tracking conflicts in school board elections here

Not all districts in Texas held an election on May 7. On Nov. 8, 27 districts within our scope will hold general 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 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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics

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 American principles and laws governing instruction on race in school
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • A brief primer on charter schools in America
  • Candidate Connection survey

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 American principles and laws governing instruction on race in schools 

Ballotpedia is tracking race-related laws in school curricula and classrooms. Governors in states like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia have signed legislation or issued executive orders limiting how such topics can be taught in public schools. 

Below, Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams write that such laws make it difficult for teachers to accurately educate students on American history, the end result of which is to create an ignorant populace. The authors also say such laws undermine due process and the free expression of ideas.

Joy Pullmann writes that teachings related to systemic racism, equity (which she contrasts with equality), and white privilege stem from critical race theory. Pullmann says such teachings are anti-American and that critical race theory is incompatible with free speech, freedom of association, and equal justice. Pullman says taxpayers should not have to support anti-American teachings in classrooms.

We Disagree on a Lot of Things. Except the Danger of Anti-Critical-Race-Theory Laws. | Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams, The New York Times

“Indeed, the very act of learning history in a free and multiethnic society is inescapably fraught. Any accurate teaching of any country’s history could make some of its citizens feel uncomfortable (or even guilty) about the past. To deny this necessary consequence of education is, to quote W.E.B. Du Bois, to transform ‘history into propaganda.’ What’s more, these laws even make it difficult to teach U.S. history in a way that would reveal well-documented ways in which past policy decisions, like redlining, have contributed to present-day racial wealth gaps. An education of this sort would be negligent, creating ignorant citizens who are unable to understand, for instance, the case for reparations — or the case against them. Because these laws often aim to protect the feelings of hypothetical children, they are dangerously imprecise. State governments exercise a high degree of lawful control over K-12 curriculum. But broad, vague laws violate due process and fundamental fairness because they don’t give the teachers fair warning of what’s prohibited. … Let’s not mince words about these laws. They are speech codes. They seek to change public education by banning the expression of ideas. Even if this censorship is legal in the narrow context of public primary and secondary education, it is antithetical to educating students in the culture of American free expression.”

It’s Critical Race Theory That Is Un-American, Not Laws Banning It | Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

“Without breaking a sweat, the New York Times has gone from insisting critical race theory doesn’t exist to arguing state legislatures must let public schools inflict it on kids. Kmele Foster, David French, Jason Stanley, and Thomas Chatterton Williams claim in the Times that ‘Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws Are Un-American.’ This is exactly backwards. It’s teaching critical race theory that is un-American. … Critical theorists oppose free speech, the consent of the governed, freedom of association, and equal justice under the law. This is not about banning them from speaking, but in using representative government to deny them the privilege of taxpayer sinecures to help them foment America’s subversion and collapse. CRT teaches not only that people are defined by their skin color but also that paler skin is inherently evil. So this theory is used to justify the insistence that the United States is inherently evil, which is also patently anti-American. The concepts of ‘systemic racism,’ ‘white privilege,’ ‘anti-racism,’ and ‘equity [as opposed to equality]’ all stem from critical theory. Since this ideology is obviously false and toxic, state legislatures have moved to protect children from being taught it as gospel in the public education systems they directly oversee.”

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

Districts in Texas held general elections for school boards on May 7. Click here to see election results for all 47 districts within our coverage scope. Next issue, we’ll bring you a roundup of commentary and analysis about what the results mean for Texas public schools. 

Districts in Nebraska held primary elections on May 10. Select a district below to read about those election results:

A primary for four seats on the Nebraska State Board of Education was also held May 10. Elizabeth Tegtmeier and incumbent Robin Stevens advanced to the general election. Based on unofficial returns, Tegtmeier received 62.4% of the vote, Stevens received 20.4%, and Pat Moore received 17.2%. Click here to see results. 

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in North Carolina are holding primary and general elections on May 17. Districts in Georgia are holding primary and general elections on May 24.

North Carolina

We’re covering the following school board elections on May 17.

Georgia

We’re covering the following school board elections in Georgia on May 24. 

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. We view candidates per seat as a proxy for the level of conflict and dissension around school board governance. Periods with more conflict tend to correlate with more candidates running for seats on school boards. Click here to see historical data on this subject.  

In 2022, 2.51 candidates are running for each seat in the 353 school board races we are covering in districts where the filing deadline has passed.

Charter schools in America: some basics

Minnesota was the first state to pass a law authorizing charter schools in 1991. Charter schools are a category of tuition-free, publicly-funded, independently run schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a charter school is “a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract—a charter—with the state, district, or other entity. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter.”

Charter schools generally receive a percentage of the per-pupil funds from the state and local school districts for operational costs based on enrollment. In most states, charter schools do not receive funds for facilities or start-up costs, and usually rely to some extent on private donations. The federal government also provides special grants for charter schools.

Since the 1990s, charter schools have expanded to 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “a partner to state policymakers by providing personalized support and helping education leaders come together to learn from one another.” 

Only Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont do not have laws authorizing charter schools. West Virginia became the 45th state to authorize charter schools in 2019, when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed House Bill 206. The state’s first charter schools were approved in November 2021. 

Kentucky authorizes charter schools but does not currently have any in operation. Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed House Bill 520 in 2017, authorizing charter schools. However, a permanent funding mechanism was never established. In late March 2022, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 9, which would have authorized federal, state, and local funding for charter schools. However, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) vetoed the bill on April 7, saying he believed the funding mechanism was unconstitutional and that he did not support charter schools.

The number of charter schools per state varies widely, according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which describes itself as the “the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement.” In 2019, California had the most charter schools in the country, with 1,336, followed by Texas and Florida. Twenty-four states had fewer than 100 charter schools. 

Charter school enrollment has grown steadily over time. In 2000, the NCES estimated that 448,343 students were enrolled in charter schools. By the 2019-2020 school year, the most recent year for which data are available, that number had climbed to nearly three and a half million students. The percentage of public school students enrolled in charter schools is around 7%

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. 

So far in 2022, 1,606 candidates have completed our Candidate Connection survey. 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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #11

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 social-emotional learning in public schools  
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • California Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election preview
  • Candidate Connection survey

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 social-emotional learning in public schools: 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) refers to an educational method that promotes the development of social and emotional skills through school curricula. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), social-emotional learning “refers to a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect student success in school and life,” including “critical thinking, emotion management, conflict resolution, decision making, teamwork.” How SEL is used varies.

Below, Jane Robbins at The Federalist writes that SEL deemphasizes the cultivation of knowledge and allows teachers to influence students to adopt attitudes and beliefs that are consistent with political correctness. Robbins says SEL promotes the idea that equality is racist and forces students to adopt anti-racist ideology, which she says identifies white children as oppressors. 

Sandra Washburn with the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning at Indiana University writes that SEL can help equip students with social and emotional skills that improve educational, relational, and mental health outcomes. Washburn says SEL promotes equity, which she says is a goal of education generally. 

How ‘Socio-Emotional Learning’ Became Another Vehicle For Anti-White Racism In Schools | Jane Robbins, The Federalist

“Parents normally send their children to school (or park them at the computer for pretend school) to learn academic disciplines, including English, math, science, and history. But in most public and some private schools, more and more time is being redirected from academic instruction to ‘social-emotional learning’ (SEL)—the cultivation not of knowledge but of the ‘correct’ attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and behaviors. … To some extent, socio-emotional learning has always been a vehicle for introducing leftist propaganda in the classroom. … Until now, CASEL downplayed the leftist slant of socio-emotional learning, presenting schools and parents instead with a sanitized picture of teaching children compassion and responsibility. But in the era of Black Lives Matter, the mask is off.”

Op-Ed: SEL offers academic and emotional gains. Banning it is about politics not education | Sandra Washburn, Indy Star

“SEL is the process though which individuals develop knowledge and utilize skills in order to: establish a positive identity; manage emotions; understand and emphasize [sic] with others; create and maintain healthy relationships; set and achieve goals; and make just and caring decisions. … The main objection to CASEL appears to be their vision that SEL is a tool to leverage equity, as if leveraging equity is a dastardly deed. Isn’t education itself a lever for equity? … Attending to the emotional well-being of our young people is imperative for schools as well as for families. It is not an either/or proposition, but a collective responsibility. Social Emotional Learning is our best primary prevention for suicide and mental health struggles.”

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

Districts in Tennessee held primary elections on May 3. Click on each district to see election results. General elections are scheduled for Aug. 4.  

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

May 16

The filing deadline is for primary elections in Florida that will occur on Aug. 23. 

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Texas are holding general elections on May 7. Districts in Nebraska are holding primary and general elections on May 10. Districts in North Carolina are holding primary and general elections on May 17. Districts in Georgia are holding primary and general elections on May 24.

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.

Texas 

Click here to learn about each of the races in the 47 districts within our coverage holding elections on May 7.

Nebraska

We’re covering the following school board elections in Nebraska on May 10.

North Carolina

We’re covering the following school board elections on May 17.

Georgia

We’re covering the following school board elections in Georgia on May 24. 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 353 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.43 candidates are running for each seat.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election preview

This year, seven states, including California, are holding elections for state superintendent of schools. California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction primary election is June 7. Let’s take a look at that race.

California uses a top-two primary system in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot.  The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 8 general election. The superintendent oversees the California Department of Education and executes the California Board of Education’s policies. The superintendent also manages the operational side of the school system. 

Seven candidates are on the primary ballot: incumbent Tony Thurmond, Marco Amaral, Joseph Campbell, Lance Christensen, Jim Gibson, Ainye Long, and George Yang

Thurmond, a former California Assembly member, was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2018. Thurmond defeated Marshall Tuck 50.9% to 49.1%.

In its 2022 election guide, The Bakersfield Californian said “The focus of this race will be on educational achievement issues, including parental choice,” and said Christensen would “most effectively advance the debate.” 

Christensen, a former California Senate legislative consultant, is the Vice President of Education Policy & Government Affairs at the California Policy Center, an educational non-profit. The group says it is “working for the prosperity of all Californians by eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom.”  

In his campaign announcement, Christensen said, “Where was Tony Thurmond during the shutdowns? He should have been fighting the governor every day. I would have been in front of the press daily, pushing back and encouraging individual School District Superintendents to push back on the shutdowns.” Christensen completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and listed the following three key campaign messages: 

  • “Lance is committed to adding parents into the education equation. 
  • Reorient all decision-making in the office and department towards the goal of what’s good for the kids and parents and commit to performing a “Kids First” audit of the Education Code. 
  • Protect the rights and autonomy of charter schools, private schools and home schools.

The California Republican Party and U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) have endorsed Christensen. 

Thurmond is running on providing more resources to support student mental health, closing pandemic-driven learning gaps, and free universal preschool. On his campaign website, Thurmond said he has “kept his promise from four years ago to prioritize public education with record investments in our school system.” The California Democratic Party, the California Federation of Teachers, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have endorsed Thurmond.

The 2018 election was the most expensive race for the California Superintendent of Public Instruction on record, with satellite spendingincluding by teachers unions, who backed Thurmond, and charter school supporters, who backed Tuck—reaching more than $50,000,000. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Dan Walters wrote the election was “a battle between two Democrats but one that encapsulates the political war over California education that has been raging for years between the education establishment, particularly the California Teachers Association, and an ‘Equity Coalition’ of civil rights groups and Tuck’s fellow reform advocates.”

Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming are also holding elections for superintendent of schools in 2022. The position of superintendent is a state executive office that exists in all 50 states. The superintendent is elected in 12 states and appointed in 38. Read more about the office here.  

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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #10

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: State takeovers  
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Education on the Supreme Court docket: a look at Kennedy v. Bremerton School District
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over the need for a state takeover of Boston Public Schools

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district. 

State governments sometimes assume—or attempt to assume—control over local school districts when a district is not meeting certain requirements. 

In Massachusetts, the state may place a district in receivership (the term for when someone else is made responsible for an entity) if the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education classifies a district as chronically underperforming. Chronically underperforming districts rank in the bottom 10% in the state based on standardized test scores and do not show signs of improvement. The state also considers factors like graduation and dropout rates before classifying eligible districts as chronically underperforming. For more information on chronically underperforming school district classifications, click here

Leaders in Massachusetts are debating whether the state should place the Boston Public School District in the chronically underperforming category and under state receivership.

Below, Dan French, president of the board of Citizens for Public Schools, writes that even though Boston public schools do not perform well, state receivership would make the situation worse. French says the district is not failing as badly as critics claim, and he says leadership is moving in the right direction.

Jim Stergios, executive director for the Pioneer Institute, and Charles Chieppo, a senior fellow at the same organization, write that the Boston Public School District is failing students and is incapable of reversing course on its own. They say the state needs to appoint a receiver-superintendent who can quickly make significant changes to improve the public school system.

State receivership wrong step for Boston schools | Dan French, Commonwealth Magazine

“Boston Public Schools are doing better than critics claim. Steady progress has been made on several fronts. Since a low of 58 percent in 2007, the graduation rate has steadily increased to 79 percent in 2021. The percent of 9th graders passing all courses, correlated to on-time graduation and college enrollment, has steadily increased to 81.5 percent in 2020. While MCAS scores are lower than desired, student growth percentiles in English language arts and math hover around the state average. These gains have occurred while the district has become more diverse with students who need more resources to learn successfully. Since 2008, English learners have grown by 60 percent. Since 2015, high needs students have increased by 13 percent and economically disadvantaged students have increased by 44 percent. Just under half (48 percent) of all students speak a first language other than English.”

Time for the State to Take Over Boston Public Schools | Jim Stergios and Charles Chieppo, Real Clear Policy

“A 2020 state review of BPS understandably gained little traction, as it was released on a Friday afternoon in March amid the initial wave of COVID-19 lockdowns. But it merits close attention in the wake of recent developments. The report is devastating. The size of the achievement gap between Black and White students widened and the performance of Latinos trails even further behind. More than 30 percent of the system’s students attend schools ranked in the bottom 10 percent statewide, and the state found no clear, consistent strategy for improving those schools. All this despite the fact that the district spends approximately $22,000 per student annually, according to data from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. … Sadly, all this is nothing new for longtime observers of the BPS. In 2004-05, the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA) published a highly critical 200-page report on BPS that identified many of the same systemic failures outlined in the 2020 report.”

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   

April 27

The filing deadline is for an election that will occur on May 17.

May 16

The filing deadline is for primary elections in Florida that will occur on Aug. 23. 

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Tennessee are holding primary elections on May 3. Districts in Texas are holding general elections on May 7

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.

New Jersey

Tennessee 

Texas 

  • Click here to learn about each of the races in the 47 districts within our coverage holding elections on May 7.

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 339 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.42 candidates are running for each seat.

Education on the Supreme Court docket: a look at Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

On April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The case concerns a high school football coach, Joseph Kennedy, who was placed on administrative leave for praying on field at the end of every game. At issue: religious expression at a public school and the Constitution’s establishment clause.

Summary: Joseph Kennedy was an assistant high school football coach with Bremerton School District (BSD) in Bremerton, Wash., from 2008 to 2015. At the end of football games, Kennedy would kneel at the 50 yard line and say a prayer. At first, Kennedy kneeled and prayed alone. Several games into his first season as a coach, some players asked if they could join him. Over time, Kennedy began giving motivational speeches that included prayer and religious content. According to Kennedy, he never required nor asked any student to pray or participate in any religious activity. 

The school district told Kennedy his actions violated school board policy and required him to stop so as not to risk violating the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Kennedy said he would not comply. The school district offered to accommodate Kennedy’s prayers by allowing him access to a private location in the school or athletic facilities, but Kennedy declined the offers and prayed on the field again after two more games. Kennedy was placed on administrative leave. Kennedy sued the school in U.S. district court for violating his right to free speech. The court ruled that the school district suspended Kennedy solely to avoid violating the establishment clause. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judgment. 

Click here to read a more detailed summary of the case’s background.

Timeline

  • April 25, 2022: The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument.
  • January 14, 2022: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
  • September 14, 2021: Joseph Kennedy appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • March 18, 2021: The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington’s ruling.

The Kennedy legal team presented two questions to the court: 

  1. Whether a public-school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection.
  2. Whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses, the Establishment Clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it.

According to SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe:

“Kennedy and the school district disagree not only about the legal issues and their implications, but also about many of the facts, including exactly why Kennedy lost his job. Kennedy says he was fired for briefly and privately praying at midfield; Laser and the school district counter that he was suspended for ‘refusing to stop holding public prayers at the 50-yard line,’ which created both pressure for students to join him and ‘genuine safety concerns for students on the fields because of the spectacle that ensued from his media outreach on praying.’”

The Court is expected to issue a ruling on the case late this spring or early in the summer.

Lubbock Independent School District general election survey responses

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the upcoming May 7 Lubbock Independent School District general elections in Texas. Three seats are up for election. 

First up is Angelina Mojica, who is a candidate for the Lubbock Independent School District school board At-Large seat. Mojica, the only candidate to complete our survey, is one of three candidates in the race.  Incumbent Beth Bridges and Brian Carr are also running. 

Next is Bethany Luna, a candidate for Lubbock Independent School District school board District 4 seat. Luna, who was the only candidate in the race to complete our survey, is running against incumbent Ryan Curry

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

“My public policy that I am most passionate about is transparency in communication, advocacy for teachers, students, and parents, and networking of community resources. I would like to see more efficient methods of communication when giving information from top down.

I would like to advocate for the connection of community and schools to help initiate community support through the collaboration of resources for all Lubbock school districts. I would like to see the support of teachers, students, and parents through the resources provided helping mitigate stressors that will enable teachers to focus on their intended goal which is to provide a well balanced education.

Thus, I offer accessibility by ensuring that I will be available to LISD constituents and stakeholders by engaging in a routine schedule of communication that is in location and time most conducive to those we serve.”

Click here to read the rest of Mojica’s answers. 

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

“I want to ensure equitable access across each school. I want more community engagement with parents, businesses, and universities. I am passionate about reducing redundant testing and success of teachers based on student performance measures. I want to ensure that our teachers have adequate support and we are being intentional to see each person as an individual and not only a statistic. That being said, I understand the business aspect and the importance of increasing student attendance and numbers within our district.”

Click here to read the rest of Luna’s answers. 

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.

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 #9

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: What rule changes is the federal government proposing for charter schools? 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Responses to trends in public education curriculum development
  • Candidate Connection survey

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.

What rule changes is the federal government proposing for charter schools?

On March 14, the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) released proposed changes to the federal Charter School Programs (CSP), which provides grants to charter schools. Among other things, the proposed changes would prohibit federal grants from going to charter school organizations that rely on for-profit companies to run their schools. Federal grants are currently restricted to nonprofit charter school organizations.

Below, Jeff Bryant, lead fellow of The Progressive Magazine’s Public Schools Advocate project, writes that President Joe Biden’s (D) proposed changes to federal charter school funding regulations would improve the program’s efficiency. Bryant says conservatives who oppose the regulations are carrying water for charter school lobbyists, who haven’t demonstrated the proposed regulations will negatively affect growth.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote that the Biden Administration’s proposed charter school regulations would benefit teachers’ unions at the expense of students. The board says the new restrictions would discourage charter schools from applying for federal grants and limit school choice.

Biden Takes Aim at Wasteful Spending on Charter Schools | Jeff Bryant, The Progressive Magazine

“President Joe Biden is taking steps to ensure that federal education funding will not be squandered on unneeded, mismanaged schools and the operators wanting to profit off of taxpayers. But these efforts are being opposed by the powerful charter school lobby, which has enjoyed a privileged status in the U.S. Department of Education, granting charter operators exclusive access to an annually renewable grant program established under the government’s Charter School Program, or CSP. … Given that the number-one reason charters close is due to financial problems—typically caused by a school’s inability to enroll enough students—it makes sense that any effort to grow charters should be based on some analysis that shows the school will be viable. Because poor management is the second-most frequent cause of charter school closures, partnering charters with the expertise of local educators can provide helpful oversight. … Charter school industry lobbyists have responded to these proposals with a campaign of hyperbolic misinformation.”

A Case of Charter School Sabotage | The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The Biden Administration is deep in the tank for the teachers unions, and it is proving it again by imposing new rules to sabotage a modest $440 million grant program for charter schools.

The 28-year-old federal Charter Schools Program helps pay for charter start-up expenses such as technology and staff. The funds go chiefly to state agencies, which award the money to charters, and to nonprofit charter management organizations. The federal Department of Education recently proposed new rules that would discourage charters from even applying for grants—which may be the goal. … States and local school districts are the main regulators and funders of charters, which are public schools. But the Administration is trying to leverage federal dollars to limit school choice and prop up failing union-run schools that received an incredible $200 billion in Covid relief since 2020. After unions spent two pandemic years keeping public schools closed, while many charters and most private schools stayed open, this is an educational and moral disgrace.”

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

On April 19, Newark Public Schools in New Jersey held a general election for three seats on the Newark Public Schools Board of Education. The board consists of nine at-large members elected to three-year terms.

According to the Essex County Clerk’s Office, 80/95 precincts were reporting as of the last update on April 19. The three top vote-getters are bolded below. Results are preliminary. 

  • Crystal Williams: 23.14%
  • A’Dorian Murray-Thomas (incumbent): 22.78%
  • Daniel Gonzales (incumbent): 22.03%
  • Thomas Luna: 9.68%
  • Maggie Freeman: 9.14%
  • Phillip Wilson: 7.18%
  • Allison K. James-Frison: 6.04%`

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

April 27

The filing deadline is for an election that will occur on May 17.

May 16

The filing deadline is for primary elections in Florida that will occur on Aug. 23. 

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Tennessee are holding primary elections on May 3. Districts in Texas are holding general elections on May 7

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.

New Jersey

Tennessee 

Texas 

  • Click here to learn about each of the races in the 47 districts within our coverage holding elections on May 7

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 305 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.37 candidates are running for each seat.

Tracking responses to trends in public education curriculum development

In school districts nationwide, parents, teachers, elected officials and others are debating what gets taught in public schools. 

Federal, state, and local officials have introduced legislation addressing sex education and gender issues, critical race theory (CRT) and related issues, the removal of content from school curriculum, and curriculum transparency. We’ve tracked those responses here

Here’s are two examples of the kinds of stories we’re tracking:

Placentia-Yorba Linda School District votes to bar critical race theory from classrooms

On April 15, the trustees of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District in California voted 3-2 to pass a resolution prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in schools. 

The resolution states that the school district “supports efforts in education to promote equity, respect, diversity; celebrate the contributions of all; and encourage culturally relevant and inclusive teaching practices, but will not allow the use of Critical Race Theory as a framework to guide such efforts.”

School board member Leandra Blades voted in favor of the resolution, saying, “I do believe in teaching kids to think critically. But there are so many classes … there are so many things you could teach your kids at home. If you really are passionate about these subjects, then teach them.”

Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at the literary advocacy group PEN America, said the proposal is “misguided and dangerous” in an open letter to the school district trustees. “By shutting off students from even being exposed to a particular academic framework analyzing race and racism, ideological bans like the one proposed by this Resolution essentially guarantee that these students will be worse-equipped to engage in societal conversations about race and racism in their lives,” Friedman wrote.

Merrimack Valley School District voters defeat petition to ban Critical Race Theory

On March 4, voters in the Merrimack Valley School District, in New Hampshire, defeated a measure to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory during the District’s annual meeting.   

Voters were asked to vote on the following question: “ARTICLE VIII. Shall the School District prohibit the teaching or propagation of topics such as Critical Race Theory or any of its derivative philosophies, defined as any program that instructs that the United States, the State of New Hampshire, or any New Hampshire resident is inherently racist or intolerant, and direct the school’s curriculum to avoid any such discriminatory educational practices and modules? Further, shall the school board members, district administrators, and faculty be responsible and accountable for enforcing state law and this warrant to protect students from discriminatory educational practices and modules?”

A resident successfully circulated a petition to get the measure on the ballot.

According to the Concord Monitor’s Josh Morrill, “Many of the Merrimack Valley meeting-goers were in agreement that an outright ban was unnecessary, as Critical Race Theory is not currently part of the school district’s curriculum. However, they added trust needs to be given to teachers, who should be given the freedom to use their skills and training to prompt critical thinking within the curriculum.”

Morrill wrote, “The article was overwhelmingly voted down.”

Nebraska’s State Board of Education primary election survey responses

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from the May 10 primary election for Nebraska State Board of Education District 7. Three candidates—incumbent Robin Stevens, Pat Moore, and Elizabeth Tegtmeier—are running in the primary. Stevens ran unopposed in 2018. 

Challengers Moore and Tegtmeier completed our Candidate Connection survey. 

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

“I am conservative not only in finances, but in my Christian beliefs. I have worked against Comprehensive Sex Education since the 1990’s. I joined with other parents in 1996 and then chaired the board that created Faith Christian School of Kearney.

I see Critical Race Theory (CRT) as an offshoot of Critical Theory which seeks to designate some as oppressors and others as the oppressed. In its current form CRT is divisive and racist, and its concepts need to be removed from education in Nebraska and the US. Tax money for the education of Nebraska’s students should follow the students, possibly including vouchers, charter and private schools, as well as home schoolers. I am pro-life and care what happens to the children and youth of Nebraska in today’s culture.”

Click here to read the rest of Moore’s answers. 

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

“I am passionate about providing our students and teachers with a learning environment that allows children to learn and develop in ways that will benefit the students in the future and are aligned with the values and direction of the parents. Education should equip our children with valuable thinking and evaluating skills (how to think rather than merely tell our students what to think).”

Click here to read the rest of Tegtmeier’s answers. 

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.

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 8

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 government-funded lunches in public schools
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Education on the ballot
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over government-funded lunches in public schools 

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

On March 31, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska) introduced the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act of 2022. The bill would extend for one year U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers issued during the pandemic allowing public schools to provide free meals to all children. Congress did not extend the waivers in the most recent budget bill. 

Below, Richard E. Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer, write that universal school lunches would improve the health of children, reduce food insecurity, and undo the effects of systematic racism. 

Max Eden, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that the expanded school lunch program could affect childrens’ perception of the family as their primary provider. Eden also says agriculture lobbyists influence school lunch menus, so the food is not as healthy as proponents think. 

School meals should remain free for all children — today and always | Richard E. Besser and Jamie Bussel, The Hill

“But the value of good nutrition to children, families and schools is long-term and profound. Universal school meals should be permanent. Our nation has a history of addressing shortfalls during periods of crisis, only to let them reaccumulate once the dust has settled. If we take that path with universal school meals, we will be repeating that predictable cycle. Ending this support would say a lot — none of it favorable — about how we prioritize the needs of children and families in America, and in particular, our commitment to undoing the damage caused by structural racism and discrimination against children and families of color. … [T]oday, universal school meals are merely a temporary band-aid on a gaping wound. Whether they become a permanent fixture of our nation’s efforts to end childhood poverty and hunger, improve children’s health and help children reach their full potential and thrive is up to us. There is no better or more important time to make the right choice.”

There’s No Free Lunch | Max Eden, AEI

“There is a strong case for having the government provide food to children whose parents can’t afford to feed them adequately, but that’s not the question at hand. The question is whether the government should feed children whose parents can afford it. … The children [who received free lunches in Ohio] had to contemplate the state as provider, rather than reflecting on how the love and labor of parents brought food to their plate. That experience shapes a child’s moral worldview, with human consequences that evade econometric analysis. Since the government, not the family, is already providing the education, the food may seem like a minor detail. But as the religions recognize, it carries significant meaning. … Progressives eager to expand school lunches, breakfasts, and dinners may be disappointed to discover that even after all the heavily touted efforts to make school lunches more local and nutritious, what gets served in school cafeterias remains heavily influenced by Big Agriculture and its lobbyists.”

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

Two California school districts held special elections on April 12. Results are preliminary. 

Andy Levine won the election with 55.87% of the vote. Daniel Renteria, Russ Allen, and Andrew Fabela received 21.35%, 11.68%, and 11.09% of the vote, respectively. 

Araceli Lopez defeated Jesus Silos 62.96% to 37.04%. 

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

April 15

The filing deadline is for primary elections that will occur on July 19.

April 27

The filing deadline is for an election that will occur on May 17.

Upcoming school board elections

Newark Public Schools in New Jersey is holding a school board general election on April 19. Districts in Tennessee are holding primary elections on May 3. Districts in Texas are holding general elections on May 7

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.

New Jersey

Tennessee 

Texas 

  • Click here to learn about each of the races in the 47 districts within our coverage holding elections on May 7 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 244 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.25 candidates are running for each seat.

Education on the ballot: a look at this year’s education-related ballot measures

We’ve talked a lot about school board elections in this newsletter. Today, let’s look at the statewide education-related ballot measures voters will decide in November. 

As of April 2022, six statewide education-related ballot measures have been certified for the ballot. All six measures will be decided on Nov. 8. In 2020, eight education-related measures were certified for the ballot. Voters approved two and defeated six.

Ballot measures have been certified in the following states:

  • Arizona: In-state tuition for non-citizen residents
  • Massachusetts: Funding for education and transportation
  • Nevada: Increases a state sales tax to fund public education 
  • New Mexico: Funds early childhood education
  • Rhode Island: Amendment concerning public education and libraries
  • West Virginia: Amendment requiring the State Board of Education to submit rule and policy changes to the legislature

There are several ways ballot measures can get on the ballot. The two most common methods are citizen-initiated measures, which typically require citizens to collect a certain number of signatures, and legislatively referred measures, which require a state legislature to vote to put a measure on the ballot. Click here to read more about the different types of ballot measures. 

In a future edition of this newsletter, we’ll take a look at the proposed measures dealing with education that might still qualify for the November ballot. 

Arizona In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Residents Measure

The ballot measure 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.

The ballot measure 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.

Path to the ballot: State Sen. Paul Boyer (R) filed the ballot measure as Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044. On March 4, 2021, the Arizona State Senate voted 17-13 to pass SCR 1044. Senate Democrats and three Republicans supported the resolution. The remaining 13 Republicans opposed the bill. The Arizona House of Representatives voted 33-27 to approve SCR 1044 on May 10, 2021. House Democrats, along with four Republicans, supported the resolution. The remaining 27 Republicans opposed the resolution.

Massachusetts Income Tax for Education and Transportation Amendment 

The measure 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 levied in addition to the state’s 5% flat income tax, for a total tax rate of 9% on income above $1 million. The amendment would also authorize the $1 million threshold to be indexed to the cost of living in Massachusetts using the same method used to establish federal income brackets. The tax would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Path to the ballot: The Massachusetts General Court held a joint session on June 9, 2021, where they approved the amendment by a vote of 159-41. The amendment was introduced in the 2021 legislative session as Senate Bill 5. All but one Republican, Sen. Patrick O’Connor, voted against the amendment, and all but nine Democrats favored it. The sole Independent member, Rep. Susannah Whipps, voted in favor of it.

Nevada Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative

This initiative has been the subject of a lawsuit. The Clark County Education Association, which sponsored this initiative, requested to withdraw the initiative after a legislative compromise was reached. In October 2021, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) said the law did not allow her to remove the initiative from the ballot after certification. On March 9, 2022, District Court Judge James Wilson ordered Cegavske to withdraw the initiatives and not put them on the 2022 ballot. Cegavske’s office said it would appeal the decision on March 15. Read more about the lawsuit here

This initiative would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax, a sales tax, from the current 2.25% to 3.75% with revenue dedicated to public schools. Currently, the total Local School Support Tax sales and use tax rate is 2.6%. The new total Local School Support Tax would be 4.1%.

Path to the ballot: Kenny Belknap filed this initiative with the Nevada Secretary of State on January 15, 2020. In February 2020, BizPac, the political action committee of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, challenged the ballot language submitted by initiative petitioners. Sponsors of the initiative filed a new version of the initiative on March 24, 2020, and reported submitting over 190,000 signatures to county election officials on November 17. On December 15, 2020, county officials verified 137,791 of the 190,192 submitted signatures for the petition, about a 72.4% validity rate. The measure was certified for the ballot after the Nevada State Legislature did not choose to vote on the indirect initiative prior to the March 12, 2021 deadline.

New Mexico Funding for Early Childhood Programs Amendment

The measure would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and public education. Sixty percent of the allocated funds would go to early childhood education, while 40% would go to public education. 

The 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. 

The New Mexico Constitution established an annual 5% distribution from the fund, with the proceeds given to 21 designated beneficiaries. The amendment would increase the annual distribution to 6.25%. The amendment also says that if the average year-end market value for the preceding five years of the LGPF dropped to $17 billion, allocations would be halted until the fund amount increased. Between 2016 and 2020, the average year-end market value for the fund was $18 billion 

The amendment would also require Congressional approval because the LGPF was established by federal law and did not initially include early childhood education as a beneficiary.

Path to the ballot: This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 on January 19, 2021. On February 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 1 in a vote of 44-23 with three absent. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed an amended version in a vote of 26-16. The vote was along party lines, except Sen. Bill G. Tallman was the only Democrat to vote against the amendment. The state House concurred on March 19. The state House vote details listed below are from the House floor vote prior to the amendment.

Rhode Island Right to Education Amendment

This amendment would establish a “fundamental right to a public education and the duty to promote public libraries” and require that the legislature ensure the education is equitable, adequate, and meaningful for each child. It would also authorize any person or entity to sue the state if the state is not in noncompliance with the amendment.

Path to the ballot: This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2095 on January 25, 2022. On March 15, 2022, the state Senate passed SJR 2095 in a vote of 36-0, with two not voting.

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

This amendment would change the state constitution to include a requirement that the West Virginia State Board of Education’s rules and policies must be submitted to the legislature for review and approval, amendment, or rejection according to a process determined by the legislature by law.  

The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. members are gubernatorial appointees requiring Senate confirmation.  The board sets rules and policies governing the public school education system and county boards of education.

Path to the ballot: In 2022, state Rep. Paul Espinosa (R-66) introduced a constitutional amendment as House Joint Resolution 102 (HJR 102). The House passed the resolution on February 22, in a vote of 80 to 18, with two absent. On February 28, the Senate approved the measure with a technical amendment by a vote of 23 to 11, sending HJR 102 back to the House for concurrence. On March 3, the House concurred by a vote of 74 to 20, with six absent. The final votes in each chamber were largely along party lines. In the Senate, one Democrat joined 22 Republicans in support, and one Republican joined 10 Democrats in opposition. In the House, one Democrat joined all 73 voting Republicans in support, and the remaining 20 voting Democrats were opposed.

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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #7

Ballotpedia's Hall Pass

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

One topic of debate in recent months has been over the types of books schools should include in their libraries and curricula. 

Below, Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, wrote that recent state legislation to remove books from school libraries and curricula was part of a larger push to uproot American institutions and norms. Nossel compared the movement to book burnings and bans in other countries. Nossel said parents should trust the judgment of teachers and librarians. 

Nicole Russell, an opinion contributor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, wrote that removing books from school libraries and curricula was not the same as book banning or censorship. Russell said parents should have input on what materials their children can access in schools but should accept that other parents in the community—as well as educators, and community members—do not all share the same values. Russell cautioned that parents who want certain books removed from libraries should not be surprised when opposing sides take similar actions.

Op-Ed: The recent onslaught of book bans is a strategic part of wider attacks on our democracy | Suzanne Nossel, Los Angeles Times

“Book bans and curriculum debates in the United States have flared up episodically over time, as rattled communities have sought to pump the brakes on social change in areas including evolutionary science, sexuality and the embrace of ethnic differences. Although some of the arguments being made today — about protecting innocent students from corrupting ideas — echo traditional motives for book banning, the current crusade has a more sinister cast. … The blitz on books and curricula is one flank in a wider onslaught on institutions and norms, aligned with part of our country’s resistance to the political and social implications that come with demographic and ideological shifts. Holding fast to democracy means holding fast to books, defending the judgment of teachers and librarians and vigorously upholding the rights to read and learn.”

School book wars aren’t about ‘censorship.’ The fight is over whose values will prevail | Nicole Russell, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“True censorship would make the novels in question unavailable, out of print. Now, when a book is tossed from a school library, it skyrockets to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. … If the book is available elsewhere, that is not censorship or even really book banning. The heart of the issue is: Who gets to tell kids what to learn? Librarians? Teachers? Parents? Many public school administrators and teachers believe that they know better than parents — sometimes they’ll even admit it. Public school administrators, board members and staff shouldn’t pretend to be daft: When parents speak up about library or syllabus content, they aren’t suggesting they know a thing about senior-level chemistry. But they do care about the ethical or moral nature of the content to which their child is exposed. Public schools are taxpayer-subsidized, and 91 percent of America’s kids go to public schools. Of course parents should have a voice in what their children learn.”

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

Districts in Alaska, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wisconsin held general school board elections on April 5. Click the links below to view results from each district. 

Alaska

Anchorage School District Board of Education Seat A

Anchorage School District Board of Education Seat B

Oklahoma

Bixby Public Schools school board Seat 2 

Edmond Public Schools Board of Education District 2

Jenks Public Schools Board of Education Area 2

McLoud Public Schools school board Number 2

Mustang Public Schools Board of Education Seat 2

Oakdale Public School Board of Education Number 3

Oklahoma City Board of Education District 5

Owasso Public Schools Board of Education Ward 2

Putnam City Schools Board of Education Office 2

Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education District 4

Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education District 7

Union Public Schools Board of Education Zone 2

Yukon Public Schools school board Number 2

Missouri 

Center School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Grandview C-4 School District Board of Education (three-year term)

Special general election for Grandview C-4 School District Board of Education (one-year term)

Hickman Mills C-1 School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Liberty Schools Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

North Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education (2 seats)

Park Hill School District Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

Platte County School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Raytown C-2 School District Board of Education (2 seats)

 St. Joseph School District Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

Wisconsin

DeForest Area School District Board of Education Village of Windsor (2 seats)

DeForest Area School District Board of Education Village of DeForest (3 seats)

Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Seat 3

Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Seat 4

McFarland School District school board At-large (2 seats)

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area I

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area III

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area IV

Sun Prairie Area Board of Education At-large (3 seats)

Verona Area School District Board of Education At-large

Verona Area School District Board of Education Portion 2

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

April 15

April 27

Upcoming school board elections

Two California school districts are holding special elections on April 12. A New Jersey district is holding a general election on April 19. Districts in Tennessee are holding primary elections on May 3.  

Click the links below to learn more about elections in each election.

California

New Jersey

Tennessee 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 239 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.25 candidates are running for each seat.

Help us expand our school board coverage—join the Ballotpedia Society today!

Local elections have big implications in the lives of voters. These elections are when we vote for the people who make rulings in family court cases, oversee the way elections are run, and make decisions in our school districts. This is why it’s so important that Americans have a resource they can trust to help them make the most informed choices for their families and communities. 

With your monthly support, Ballotpedia can expand our coverage to all 14,000 school boards and give voters access to information about their ballots, and the candidates running for office in their backyard from city council to school board. 

Join the Ballotpedia Society to keep voters up to date on the information they need to know who and what is on their ballot, from the federal level all the way to their backyards.

Judge removes and then reinstates five members of a Pennsylvania school board

The debate over mandating masks in schools took a turn recently in West Chester, Pa., when a judge ordered the five Democratic members of a local school board to be removed from office—only to reinstate them a few days later.

On March 30, Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge William Mahon ruled the five Democratic members of the West Chester Area School District School Board were to be removed from office. Mahon’s ruling came in response to a petition to remove members of the school board who voted for a mandatory mask policy. Beth Ann Rosica, a parent in the West Chester School District, filed the petition on Feb. 13. Rosica is also the executive director of Back to School PA, a PAC that “focuses on addressing the unintended consequences of prolonged school closures that resulted in learning loss, mental health, and behavioral issues.”

Mahon said he issued his decision to remove the school board members because the school district’s attorneys failed to respond to Rosica’s petition by a March 15 deadline. The district’s attorneys, however, asked Mahon to reconsider, arguing the actual date for a formal response was April 4. On April 1, Mahon agreed to reverse his decision, reinstated the board members, and allowed the case to move forward. 

In her petition to remove the members, Rosica cited a 1949 Pennsylvania statute that allows any 10 taxpayers in a school district to file a petition in a county court to remove school board directors if any “(1) fail to organize as hereafter provided, or (2) refuse or neglect to perform any duty imposed upon it by the provisions of this act relating to school districts, or (3) being a party to a joint board agreement refuse or neglect to perform any duty imposed upon it by the provisions of this act relating to joint boards or by the joint board agreement.”

In a press release when she first filed her petition, Rosica said: “Parents all over Chester County are exacerbated over the current masking policies of their school districts. Several parents have taken their frustrations to the next level by filing petitions with county court to recall those board members who voted to mask children.”

Rosica said the West Chester Area School District acted illegally when it maintained a mask mandate after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the statewide school mask requirement on Dec. 10. 

Shannon Grady, a parent in the nearby Downingtown Area School District, filed a similar petition in the same court on the same day.

Rosica named Sue Tiernan, the president of the school board, and fellow board members Joyce Chester, Karen Herrmann, Kate Shaw, and Daryl Durnell in the petition. All five members are Democrats. Before the November 2021 general election, Republicans controlled the school board 5-4. However, Democrats won three board seats in the general election, bringing the partisan balance to 6-3, with Democrats in control. We identified this election in our 2021 report on conflicts in school board elections

In a response motion filed April 4, the District’s attorney said: “While certain members of the public may disagree with the board’s decision to follow federal, state and local public health guidance calling for the wearing of face coverings inside the school district’s building, such disagreement cannot serve as the basis for this court to remove any members of the board.” 

Both sides have 45 days to gather evidence and file for a hearing before Mahon. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 35 states have required masks in schools at some point. Click here to learn more about school responses to the pandemic. 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from local school board candidates in Texas: 

First up: Jane Lindell Hughes, who is running for the Alamo Heights Independent School District school board to represent Place 2.

Next is Pam Johnson, who is for the Lewisville Independent School District Board of Trustees to represent Place 3/

Both elections are on May 7. 

Here’s how Hughes responded to the question “What is the primary job of a school board member in your view?”

“The Board serves as a bridge between the community and the school administration. Constituents presumably elect candidates whose academic expectations and understanding of the role of the school closely resembles their own. The job of the board is to then select or continue to employ the superintendent who is charged with implementing and overseeing policies and practices consistent with that academic and role philosophy. The secondary, and one could argue equally important role, is to ensure that the school district maintains fiscally sound practices in all areas.”

Click here to read the rest of Hughes’ answers. 

Here’s how Johnson responded to the question “What is the primary job of a school board member in your view?”

“The School Board must recruit and retain excellent teachers, ensure conservative stewardship over budgets to protect our local citizen taxpayers, and preserve educational excellence and traditional values.”

Click here to read the rest of Johnson’s answers. 

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.

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 #6

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 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: Gender identity
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • A look at Carson v. Makin
  • Candidate Connection responses from North Kansas City Schools school board in Missouri

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 teaching gender identity in schools 

On March 28, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed House Bill 1557 into law. Among other things, the bill says that classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through third grade.

So, what does it mean to teach gender identity—and should schools teach it in the first place? 

Below, Keri D. Ingraham, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, writes that teaching about gender identity confuses students, conflicts with what she calls the “reality of biological sex,” can encourage treatments like gender reassignment surgery that can cause physical damage, and can drive a wedge between students and parents. Ingraham also says bathroom and locker room selection policies can endanger female students. 

Timothy Dale Williams II, a U.S. history teacher for Prince George’s County Public Schools, writes that teachers need to be active in teaching students, other teachers, and parents about gender identity. Williams says teaching about gender issues is beneficial for all students and helps create a more accepting environment for transgender students. Williams also says opposing gender theory is a form of white supremacy. 

How Replacing Biological Sex with Gender Identity Harms Children | Keri D. Ingraham, National Review

“This preoccupation with gender-identity indoctrination is, moreover, at odds with the reality of biological sex, and has several harmful long-term effects on children. … First, the crowding out of academic learning, which is already deficient, by inappropriate sexual classroom content is educational malpractice. … Second, this indoctrination fuels identity confusion in students, as it conflicts with their biological reality (think of the Gender Unicorn and Genderbread Person). Third, bathroom self-selection, non-binary cabin counselors, and males in female locker rooms and on sports teams are not only violating the privacy of girls but also placing their safety at risk. Fourth, promoting or providing access to gender-blocking hormones and body-change surgeries to children and teenagers adds irreversible damage, including sterilization, to the psychological and emotional abuse of children. Finally, those states and districts that forbid the disclosure of gender-ideology discussions and that conduct a gender-‘transition’ plan without parent consent nor communication are not only damaging children but also driving a wedge between parents/legal guardians and their children.”

Opinion: We Should Never Stop Learning About Gender Identity | Timothy Dale Williams II, Maryland Matters

“As I studied and grew in knowledge, I realized that I had to take a stance on LGBTQIA issues to nurture the growth of all of my students. Long before our mandatory training, I realized that the fight to respect trans-gendered students in the classroom was an essential civil rights issue of our time. I am directly in the middle of one of the most important justice issues of our time every day as a public-school teacher. I understand now why it’s important that I do more than just use the preferred pronouns of students in the classroom. I must be intentional about teaching students, colleagues, and parents to respect the identity of trans-gendered students. I plan on doing this by being intentional about highlighting the stories of LGBTQIA individuals throughout history in my class. The concept of white supremacy has several branches that are still alive today. Being against gender and sexuality comes from the same tree that discriminates against me because I am a Black man. White Europeans in the 19th century labeled practices such as the ancient Hawaiian Hula dance evil because they didn’t understand it. Colonialism around the world involved labeling people, traditions, and beliefs white Europeans didn’t understand as evil or uncivilized.”

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

On March 29, a majority of voters cast ballots against recalling Tim Stentiford, one of the 12 members of the Regional School Unit 21 school board in Maine. Unofficial results show 1,716 votes against recalling Stentiford and 516 votes for recalling Stentiford.  

Voters saw two questions on the recall ballot. The first asked if they wished to recall Stentiford with the option to vote yes or no. The second asked who they wished to replace Stentiford if he was removed from office. Gayle Asmussen Spofford was the only candidate to file to run in the replacement race.

For more on this recall, see our March 23 edition of Hall Pass.

States with school board filing deadlines in the next 30 days   

April 15

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in Alaska, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Wisconsin will hold general school board elections on April 5. Click the links below to learn more about elections in each district. 

Alaska

Anchorage School District Board of Education Seat A

Anchorage School District Board of Education Seat B

Oklahoma

Bixby Public Schools school board Seat 2

Edmond Public Schools Board of Education District 2

Jenks Public Schools Board of Education Area 2

McLoud Public Schools school board Number 2

Mustang Public Schools Board of Education Seat 2

Oakdale Public School Board of Education Number 3

Oklahoma City Board of Education District 5

Owasso Public Schools Board of Education Ward 2

Putnam City Schools Board of Education Office 2

Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education District 4

Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education District 7

Union Public Schools Board of Education Zone 2

Yukon Public Schools school board Number 2

Missouri 

Center School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Grandview C-4 School District Board of Education (three-year term)

Special general election for Grandview C-4 School District Board of Education (one-year term)

Hickman Mills C-1 School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Liberty Schools Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

North Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education (2 seats)

Park Hill School District Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

Platte County School District Board of Education (2 seats)

Raytown C-2 School District Board of Education (2 seats)

 St. Joseph School District Board of Education At-large (2 seats)

Wisconsin

DeForest Area School District Board of Education Village of Windsor (2 seats)

DeForest Area School District Board of Education Village of DeForest (3 seats)

Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Seat 3

Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Seat 4

McFarland School District school board At-large (2 seats)

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area I

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area III

Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education Area IV

Sun Prairie Area Board of Education At-large (3 seats)

Verona Area School District Board of Education At-large

Verona Area School District Board of Education Portion 2

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 236 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.26 candidates are running for each seat.

Education on the Supreme Court docket: a look at Carson v. Makin

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Carson v. Makin on Dec. 8, 2021. The case concerns a Maine tuition assistance program that does not apply to schools related to religious groups.

More than half of Maine’s 260 school districts do not operate their own high schools. Instead, some rural districts make arrangements with other public high schools or private schools to take their students. The Maine Town Tuitioning program pays for students in districts that do not operate their own high schools to attend public or private schools inside or outside of the state. According to the program’s requirements, approved private schools must be nonsectarian, meaning that it is not related to a religious group or organization.

In August 2018, three sets of parents sued the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, alleging the program’s nonsectarian requirement violated their First Amendment rights. The parents sought to send their children to private Christian schools that the state deemed sectarian, and ineligible for funding. 

The district court ruled against the parents in April 2019, at which point the parents appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. Arguments were held on Jan. 8, 2020. Two weeks after the 1st Circuit heard oral arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which concerned whether the government could exclude religious institutions from student-aid programs. The Montana Supreme Court had struck down a state program giving tax credits to those who donated to organizations providing scholarships to private schools, saying the Montana constitution banned state aid to religious private schools. On June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Montana ban on state aid to sectarian schools violated the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.

Both parties in Carson v. Makin filed with the 1st Circuit on how Espinoza affected the court’s ruling in the case. Attorneys for the parents said Espinoza supported their claim that the state program’s nonsectarian requirement violated the free exercise clause. Attorneys for the Maine Education Commission said Espinoza had no effect on the case, and the district court’s ruling should be upheld.

On Oct. 29, 2020, the 1st Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine’s ruling against the parents. 

Attorneys for the parents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and oral arguments took place on Dec. 8, 2021. The question before the Supreme Court:

“Does a state violate the Religion Clauses or Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution by prohibiting students participating in an otherwise generally available student-aid program from choosing to use their aid to attend schools that provide religious, or ‘sectarian,’ instruction?”

A ruling is expected sometime this spring. 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from Laura Wagner and Duane Bartsch, two candidates in the general election for North Kansas City Schools school board in Missouri. The election for two seats on the board is scheduled for April 5. 

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

“I am passionate about education for all. I believe strong public schools provide an educated society and every employer needs to hire people with skills. While soft skills – empathy and the ability to work together are important and are also a part of a public education, basic math, reading and writing are the first expectation of all employers, parents and school districts. There is a push to defund public schools and as a society, it would be to our detriment to allow that to happen.

Our students deserve equity in school – with each classroom having access to the same superior learning tools and technology. Our teachers should be allowed to work with smaller classes, giving more time to each student. They should receive good wages and benefits, and be allowed to provide innovative learning experiences to engage students.”

Click here to read the rest of Wagner’s answers. 

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

“Give students a strong foundation in the basics: reading, writing, and math. If you’re not proficient in the basics, then you’re not prepared as a citizen. You’re not prepared to think for yourself, fight for what is right, reason effectively, or participate in work environments and earn a good wage. Emphasizing divisive social theory, dividing kids by color or sexuality destroys citizenship promotion. The good news is that schools can and should be good at the basics — if it’s prioritized. NKC needs to focus on academics. My alma mater, Winnetonka, has a 13% math proficiency (source: publicschoolreview.com). NKC has too many resources and quality teachers to have ever allowed this to happen.”

Click here to read the rest of Bartsch’s answers. 

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.


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 #6

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 parental access to teaching materials
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • An update on school board recall efforts
  • Candidate Connection survey

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 parental access to teaching materials

One debate currently playing out in legislatures and school districts is whether schools should have to post curriculum and teacher training materials online. For example, on March 14, the Arizona State Senate passed SB 1211, a bill that would require schools to post curriculum and classroom activities online. The bill now goes to the House for consideration. 

Below, Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and director of the Institute’s initiative on critical race theory, writes that parents should be able to see what public schools teach their children. Rufo says parental access to curricular materials is especially important on issues like race, gender and sex, and political ideology. 

Natalie Wexler, a senior contributor at Forbes, writes that the lack of published curriculum online does not indicate schools and school districts are hiding politically charged teaching materials. Wexler says teachers rarely rely on a set curriculum, so it is difficult to share their materials with parents. Wexler says greater reliance on curriculum could improve learning outcomes, but transparency bills on controversial topics could disincentivize the use of curriculum. 

The Fight for Curriculum Transparency | Christopher Rufo, City Journal

“The case for curriculum transparency rests on an irrefutable moral argument: parents have the right to know what the government is teaching their children. Parents are not only taxpayers but also the primary stakeholders in the public education system. Approximately 90 percent of American families entrust their children’s education to public schools. That system’s minimum responsibility is to provide accurate, timely, and comprehensive information about the curriculum—especially as it relates to sensitive and controversial topics such as race, gender, identity, and political ideology. The recent parent backlash underscores the importance of transparency. Millions of American families feel that the public schools are working against their values. Transparency legislation is the bare minimum for public schools to start rebuilding trust with these families.”

We Need ‘Curriculum Transparency,’ But Not The Kind Some State Bills Would Require | Natalie Wexler, Forbes

“[M]ost state education officials are clueless about what materials are actually being used in school districts. Local district officials often don’t know what materials are being used in school buildings. Even principals may be unclear about what teachers are using in the classroom down the hall. And teachers themselves may not know what materials they’ll be using in class until the night before. Clearly that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to post ‘curriculum’ online. … If curriculum transparency is reduced to a vehicle for challenges to supposedly offensive or divisive texts, schools may shy away from including any content in their curricula. They’ll stick with or return to an ELA [English language arts] curriculum that consists of the usual round of ‘comprehension skills’ and doesn’t specify any content whatsoever.”

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   

April 15

Upcoming school board elections

Districts in the following states will hold general school board elections on April 5:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin 

We’ll preview those elections in more detail in our next issue

We’re covering one school board recall election in the next 30 days. The March 29 recall is against Tim Stentiford, one of the 12 members of the Regional School Unit 21 school board in Maine. 

Recall supporters listed a loss of teachers in the district, increased spending on human resources, and the lack of a school board curriculum committee as reasons for the recall. The affidavit to recall LeBlanc said his “role in negotiating the most recent teachers contract and its impact on staff attrition, the failure to seat a curriculum committee and a failure in executive leadership by allowing teachers, parents and community members to be bullied and admonished in public meetings, has caused a loss of confidence in his ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office.”

Stentiford had not responded to the recall effort. However, board Chair Art LeBlanc, whom recall supporters tried unsuccessfully to include in the recall effort, said on Nov. 23, 2021:

“The Board’s goals are to provide a high quality public education, to be leaders in our state and nation academically, and to ensure that our staff receive competitive salaries and benefits. We are proud of the concrete and undeniable steps that the district has taken in the past two years to support our employees during the pandemic, to move our salary scales in a meaningful manner, and provide for the health and safety of our students and employees. Members of the Board are aware that there is a well-organized group that meet regularly and seem focused on discrediting the work of the Board and the administration for political gain. Despite the efforts of this group to cast doubt on the Board’s commitment to our motives, the Board will remain steadfast in its commitment to support our students and employees.”

Read more about this recall here

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 204 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.19 candidates are running for each seat.

This year’s school board recall elections so far

According to our year-end recall analysis, we tracked more recall efforts in 2021 than any other year since we began compiling recall data in 2012. Notably, for the first time since we began tracking recalls, school board members faced more recalls than any other office type. 

So far this year, we’ve tracked 28 recall efforts against 69 school board officials—the highest number of recalls across all officials (city council members were next, with 57 officials named in recalls). 

Six school board recalls have gone to a vote this year against 11 officials. Of those eleven officials, four were successfully recalled from office.

Looking ahead, Tim Stentiford, discussed above, will face a recall on March 29. Recall efforts in Nevada, California, Michigan, New Jersey, and elsewhere are currently underway, meaning that recall supporters have filed with the relevant election office but are waiting for petitions to be approved, circulating petitions, or waiting for signatures to be verified. We’ll keep you updated on those efforts, and any new efforts that come up each week. 

Here’s where we’ve tracked recall efforts this year:

In 2021, California accounted for almost 30% of the country’s school board recall elections. 

Twenty-three states allow for the recall of school board members.

Six of the states that allow school board recalls require specific grounds to be met in order for a recall effort to move forward, such as malfeasance or misfeasance in office. The number of signatures required to get a school board recall on the ballot varies by state. Common factors for calculating the signature requirement include the size of the board member’s jurisdiction and the number of votes cast in a previous election. In all but one of the states, recall elections are held if enough signatures are collected. Virginia is the exception. If enough signatures are collected in that state, a trial is held at the circuit court level.

The amount of time recall petitions are allowed to be circulated also varies by state. Georgia, Nebraska, and North Carolina have the shortest petition circulation time with 30 days. Out of the states that have a time limit for circulating petitions, Washington has the longest with 180 days. New Mexico, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia do not have a time limit for petition circulation

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!



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #5

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: School discipline policies 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Primary preview: Nebraska’s State Board of Education May 10 primaries
  • Candidate Connection survey

On the issues

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on one of the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

The debate over school discipline policies

In recent years, debate has taken place among school board members, scholars, and advocacy groups about school discipline policies.

Below, Heather Cunningham, an Assistant Professor of Education at Chatham University, writes that schools should move away from systems of discipline that tend to punish students for mistakes. Cunningham says systems that often suspend or expel students for misbehavior are systemically racist. She says new systems of discipline should pull students closer to helpful resources instead of pushing them out of schools.

Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes that more attention should be paid to student experiences under less-punitive discipline systems. Eden says less-punitive discipline systems in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, did not reduce student arrests and contributed to lower math achievement in middle schools and predominantly Black schools. 

Restorative Discipline: Classroom Management for Equity and Justice | Heather Cunningham, writing at Green Schools National Network

“Educators who want to work against the systemic racism found in their school’s punitive discipline system can consider a different framework for classroom management and building school culture. Using practices rooted in restorative discipline is a promising way to do this. Restorative discipline is an approach to classroom management rooted in restorative justice philosophy. This philosophy advocates that schools should be places where young people are able to make mistakes, reflect upon and learn from these mistakes, and correct them as they continue to learn and grow. In terms of academics, U.S. schools have embraced this growth mindset idea. Students are expected to make mistakes on assignments, receive feedback from their teachers, learn from their errors, and continue to grow.”

Restorative justice isn’t working, but that’s not what the media is reporting | Max Eden, writing at The Thomas Fordham Institute

“Last week, the first randomized control trial study of ‘restorative justice’ in a major urban district, Pittsburgh Public Schools, was published by the RAND Corporation.

The results were curiously mixed. Suspensions went down in elementary but not middle schools. Teachers reported improved school safety, professional environment, and classroom management ability. But students disagreed. They thought their teachers’ classroom management deteriorated, and that students in class were less respectful and supportive of each other; at a lower confidence interval, they reported bullying and more instructional time lost to disruption. And although restorative justice is billed as a way to fight the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ it had no impact on student arrests. The most troubling thing: There were significant and substantial negative effects on math achievement for middle school students, black students, and students in schools that are predominantly black.”

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 

March 18

March 22

Upcoming school board elections

We’re covering one school board recall election in the next 30 days. The March 29 recall is against Tim Stentiford, one of the 12 members of the Regional School Unit 21 school board in Maine. Recall supporters listed a loss of teachers in the district, increased spending on human resources, and the lack of a school board curriculum committee as reasons for the recall.

Districts in the following states will hold general school board elections on April 5:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin 

We’ll bring you more on those elections in future editions. 

School board candidates per seat up for election

For the 201 school board races we are covering whose filing deadlines have passed, an average of 2.2 candidates are running for each seat.

Primary preview: Nebraska’s State Board of Education May 10 primaries

On May 10, voters will decide primaries for four of the State Board of Education’s eight nonpartisan seats. The Board’s statewide health education standards, first proposed in March 2021, have figured prominently in the runup to the primaries. 

In March 2021, the Board released a draft of proposed statewide health education standards that, according to the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, “would have taught about sexual orientations, identities and activities to children who were in elementary school.” A number of parents, and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), have criticized the non-binding standards.

The Board released a revised draft in July that removed “many references to sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, roles and stereotypes.” OutNebraska, an organization whose mission is to “empower, celebrate and grow LGBTQ+ communities in Nebraska,” said “This erasure does nothing to protect LGBTQ+ students. The fact that LGBTQ+ people exist should not be controversial.” Ricketts said that although the revised draft was an improvement over the first, the standards “still need improvement.”

In September, the Board voted to shelve the proposed standards. 

Board member Robin Stevens, who is running in the Seat 7 primary on May 10, was one of the five who voted to stop development of the standards. 

Stevens, who assumed office in 2019, said, “I want people to know that there has never been a vote by the state board to either approve or disapprove the proposed health standards … I felt like the language that was used in parts of the health standards was too raw and therefore inappropriate.”

Stevens faces two challengers: Pat Moore and Elizabeth Tegtmeier

Moore is a pastor who has emphasized local control of education decisions. In response to a question on Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey Moore said,  “Comprehensive sex education and Critical Race Theory concepts need to be removed from education in Nebraska.” 

Tegtmeier, a former public school teacher, said, “The board became so wrapped up in activist causes that attempted to indoctrinate our children that they neglected their duty to our local school districts.” Tegtmeier said she “promises to protect Nebraska’s children from harmful ideologies that promote racially divisive ideas and inappropriate sexual content.” 

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), Lt. Gov. Mike Foley (R), several Republican state senators, and several county Republican parties endorsed Tegtmeier. 

All three Seat 7 candidates are Republicans.

Members are elected to four-year terms in nonpartisan elections. Four of eight seats are up for election this year. Three incumbents are running in 2022. One other incumbent, Democrat Deborah Neary, faces a primary with two challengers for the District 8 seat. The District 5 and District 6 seats saw two candidates file a piece, meaning the candidates will skip a primary and face off in the November general election.

The State Board of Education’s responsibilities include oversight and supervision of the state’s K-12 public schools.

San Francisco Mayor appoints new school board members

On March 11, San Francisco Mayor London Breed appointed Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi, and Lisa Weissman-Ward to the San Francisco Unified School District school board, filling vacancies caused by a Feb. 15 recall election. 

San Francisco voters recalled Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga. Recall supporters said they were frustrated that schools in the district remained closed for nearly a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and upset the board spent time voting to rename 44 buildings in the district rather than trying to reopen schools. 

In the aftermath of the election, López said, “None of this is a surprise. We’ve been threatened of a recall, maybe even six months into our term because of what we were highlighting. What we were bringing up. What we were challenging. The issue that I am pointing to is when that comes from people of color, primarily women of color, that is enough of a problem to silence us. How they achieved that was through a recall.”

The group behind the recall effort published a list of 21 potential candidates. Hsu and Motamedi were on that list. Siva Raj, who co-led the recall effort, said, “I think the next year is going to be critical for the school district. We have so many issues to deal with firstly a new superintendent to hire, there’s a learning loss, there’s also the budget crisis that we need to solve.”

The new board members will stand for election in November 2022. 

Read our coverage of the San Francisco Unified School District recall here

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!