The average number of candidates running per school board seat in school districts covered by Ballotpedia went up each year from 2020 to 2022. An average of 1.96 candidates ran per seat in 2020. That number increased to 2.09 in 2021 and increased again to 2.17 in 2022.
School board elections in 2021 and 2022 also saw a lower percentage of uncontested seats compared to 2020. In 2020, 35.51% of the school board seats covered by Ballotpedia saw no opposition. That percentage decreased to 23.84% in 2021. It then rose slightly to 24.81% in 2022.
School board incumbents ran for re-election at a lower rate in 2021 and 2022 compared to 2020, with the lowest percentage happening in 2021. A total of 73.66% of school board incumbents whose terms were up for election in 2020 ran for another term. In 2021, 64.92% of incumbents ran for re-election, and 68.18% ran for re-election in 2022.
Elections in 2021 and 2022 also saw a higher percentage of non-incumbent candidates compared to 2020. In 2020, 62.38% of all school board candidates were non-incumbents. In 2021, that percentage rose to 68.90%. It was nearly equal in 2022 at 68.56%.
When looking at school board election results, 2021 and 2022 saw a lower percentage of seats go to incumbents compared to 2020, with the lowest percentage happening in 2021. Incumbents won 60.20% of seats up for election in 2020. That percentage fell to 50.97% in 2021. It rose to 53.38% in 2022.
Ballotpedia covers all school districts in the 100 largest cities by population and the 200 largest school districts by student enrollment. In 2020, that included 358 school districts in 28 states with a total of 1,025 school board seats and 2,007 candidates. In 2021, Ballotpedia covered elections in 180 school districts in 24 states. There were 516 seats up for election that year and 1,077 candidates. In 2022, Ballotpedia covered 1,169 school board seats up for election in 372 school districts in 28 states. A total of 2,535 candidates ran for election that year.
The Florida House of Representatives on March 31 voted 79-34 along partisan lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed, to pass House Joint Resolution 31. HJR 31 would amend the state constitution to make school board elections partisan.
School board members in Florida are elected by the voters of the county and serve four-year terms. Currently, voters elect five or more members in a nonpartisan election. Each county makes up a school district, unless two neighboring counties have voted to combine school districts.
The school board controls school property, establishes, organizes, and operates the schools of the district, including establishing schools, adopting enrollment plans, providing for school elimination and consolidation, cooperating with school boards of adjoining districts in maintaining schools, maintaining the school year schedule, and other more specific duties as outlined in Florida statutes.
State Rep. Spencer Roach (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “This is not about, at least for me, advancing the cause of one political party over another. But for me it’s about transparency, and I simply believe that we have an obligation to give voters as much information about a candidate as possible, and let them make a decision about vetting a candidate. I would tell folks, if they truly want to vote for nonpartisan candidates, those candidates in Florida who are NPAs that don’t have a philosophical association with either of the two major parties and they (voters) viewed them as sort of purist NPAs — right now in Florida, the law prevents you from doing that, because you don’t know who that candidate is.”
State Rep. Angie Nixon (D), said, “I believe this bill is not about transparency at all. This bill is about making our school-board elections and our school boards more contentious, more like D.C., which [Republicans] honestly always try to oppose.”
Florida has a Republican trifecta. The Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature. If passed in the Senate, the amendment would be placed on the 2024 ballot. To be approved by voters, a 60% vote is required. If approved, the amendment would take effect during the 2026 school board elections.
The Toledo Public School District (TPS) in Ohio voted unanimously to pass a resolution on October 10, 2022, that rejects the Ohio State Board of Education’s (SBOE) resolution on gender identity policies in public schools.
SBOE member Brendan Shea introduced the SBOE’s resolution on September 20, 2022, in opposition to the Biden administration’s (D) guidance aiming to expand Title IX’s discrimination protections to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Titled Resolution To Support Parents, Schools, And Districts In Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, And Burdensome Gender Identity Policies, the SBOE’s resolution includes the following provisions:
Ask Ohio lawmakers to assist districts that resist Title IX changes with stopgap funding
Require schools to notify parents if a student is questioning gender identity
Support lawsuits against the Department of Agriculture that require schools to accept Title IX changes in order to get federal nutritional assistance
Ask the state superintendent to issue a letter to all public schools directing them to view the proposed Title IX changes as unenforceable
When introducing the resolution last month, Shea stated, “It’s my sincere hope that the state Board of Education will pass this resolution to oppose the radical, and I would argue illegal, changes to Title IX.” The Ohio SBOE voted 12-7 on October 13, 2022, to send the measure to the executive committee, which has signaled that it will table the issue, according to local news outlet WHIO.
The TPS board members voted to reject the SBOE proposal. TPS Board Member Chris Varwig said, “We’re about student-centered decision-making. Whether that is curriculum, athletics, art. We’re going to focus on what matters to students and families and provide equitable education for all students.”
The Richmond City School Board, which oversees Richmond Public Schools (RPS) in Richmond, Virginia, voted 8-1 on October 2, 2022, to approve a resolution rejecting the Virginia Department of Education’s policy on transgender students. The policy, titled 2022 Model Policies On The Privacy, Dignity, And Respect For All Students And Parents In Virginia’s Public Schools, mandated the following approaches to transgender students in the state’s public schools:
Transgender students must use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their assigned sex at birth
The legal name and sex of a student cannot be changed unless official legal documentation or a court order is presented
Teachers and school officials must refer to a student by the pronouns associated with their sex at birth
Teachers are not required to use a student’s preferred name if they believe doing so would violate their constitutionally protected rights
The resolution, RPS Transgender Student Protection Resolution, formally rejects the new policies on transgender students put forth by Republican Gov. GlennYoungkin’s administration and affirms what the board views as its “commitment to providing protections for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
The Virginia Department of Education stated in its description of its guidance that the policy aims to establish “the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated.”
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on September 26, 2022, voted 8-5 to approve changes to public education curriculum guidelines that aim to align with the requirements set forth in Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) concerning instruction about race in social studies curriculum.
Texas lawmakers passed SB 3 during a 2021 special session following the prior passage of House Bill 3979 (HB 3979), which Governor Greg Abbott (R) described as “a strong move to abolish critical race theory in Texas, but more must be done.” SB 3, signed into law by Governor Abbott on June 8, 2021, does not reference the term critical race theory but prohibits instruction stating that an individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, among other provisions.
The law directed the SBOE to align the K-12 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)—the state’s required curriculum and education content standards—with the new requirements. The SBOE in August failed to overhaul the full TEKS and instead sought to revise the existing curriculum standards. These revisions included the addition of civics lessons to the social studies standards on ”understanding the founding documents, civic engagement, and an appreciation of the United States and its form of government,” according to a statement from SBOE Chairman Dr. Keven Ellis.
During a September 26 meeting, SBOE member Rebecca Bell-Metereau (D) discussed what she views as confusion in the education community regarding the language of the law and the stated goal of some lawmakers, including Governor Greg Abbott, to eliminate critical race theory instruction in classrooms. “People have talked about critical race theory without understanding what it is. The definition has become that this is teaching children to not like each other on the basis of race, which is not a correct definition of critical race theory,” said Bell-Metereau.
Pat Hardy (R), a board member from Fort Worth, emphasized that these revisions aim to provide better guidance on how to teach civics education. She said, “We’re working right now mainly on skills – specific skills – how to balance things, fact and opinion, that sort of stuff.”
The Hillsborough Board of Education in New Jersey voted on September 19, 2022, to approve a revised K-12 social studies curriculum. Board members announced they would delay voting on the curriculum until October, but decided to vote to pass the curriculum after hearing public comments from educators and parents. The revisions include a variety of changes including civics standards and new diverse resources for instruction.
Some board members, such as John Oliver, argued that the vote should have been delayed to address concerns regarding certain content in the curriculum guides. Oliver said, “There are a couple of topics that I found on there to be a little bit controversial, a little bit offensive. I don’t have… I haven’t had a chance to really go through it and look at it but my point is to hold this off to give the public a little more chance to review this and give them an opportunity to weigh in as well,” according to Patch.
During the period for public comments, educators argued that the curriculum outlines in question adhered to state standards and are meant to be used as guides for teachers. Dr. Kim Feltre, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said, “A board will never see individual worksheets because that’s not what… that’s up to the teachers. The teachers take the guide and they turn it into what goes on in the classroom and that’s where they are the professionals,” according to Patch.
The Hillsborough Board of Education is responsible for establishing curriculum guides for teachers to use to develop instructional materials that adhere to state standards. The K-12 social studies curriculum guides can be found on the Hillsborough Township Public Schools website.
The Kennewick School Board in Washington state unanimously voted to adopt a new set of curriculum guidelines on August 24, 2022, that aim to restrict teachings on U.S. history and race.
Kennewick School Board passed a new policy, known as Policy 2340, that would prohibit teachings that the U.S. is fundamentally or systemically racist or that a group of people is inherently racist, oppressed, or victims. The policy also seeks to bar politically leaning content from being included in course curricula, including the “1619 Project” and the “Zinn Education Project.”
In reference to Policy 2340, Kennewick School Board member Gabe Galbraith said during the school board meeting, “Anytime in politics, there’s give and take. Could this have been stronger? I think so. But we had a great discussion in June and everyone was able to voice their concerns and thoughts, and I think we were able to capture that in this policy.”
Rob Woodford, president of the Kennewick Education Association teacher union, argued critical race theory was never a part of the curriculum and that the policy would not change current teaching methods. “Educators in Kennewick have always done a great job presenting factual information to students in a professional manner, and that will continue to be the case regardless of incendiary — but, ultimately, unsubstantiated — issues, which tend to rise up and then fade away,” he said.
In the first half of 2022, Ballotpedia tracked 152 recall efforts against 240 officials. These figures represent a small decline from 2021, when we tallied 165 recall efforts against 263 officials by midyear. In comparison, the highest number of recall efforts we have tracked by midyear was 189 in 2016. The lowest was 72 in 2019.
For the second year in a row, school board members drew more recall petitions than any other group. One-third of officials who faced recall campaigns in the first half of 2022 were school board members. City council members—the officials who drew the most efforts from 2016 to 2020—accounted for 32% of officials targeted for recall in 2022.
For the first time since Ballotpedia started tracking this statistic in 2015, Michigan was the state with the most officials facing recall efforts in the first half of the year. Michigan saw 70 officials subject to a recall campaign, surpassing California, which had the most officials targeted for recall midway through the year from 2015 through 2021.
In 2020, Ballotpedia began following recalls related to coronavirus and government responses to it. We have tallied 245 such efforts since 2020, including 27 efforts against 66 officials in the first half of 2022.
In this report, Ballotpedia also highlighted five noteworthy recall campaigns: the effort against Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), the effort against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (D), the effort against County Commissioner William Bunek (R) in Leelanau County, Michigan, and the efforts against members of the San Francisco school board in California and the Newberg school board in Oregon.
California School Boards Association (CSBA) president Susan Heredia announced in a letter to CSBA members that the organization will not be renewing its membership in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the end of the current membership period. At a board meeting on March 26, the CSBA board of directors voted not to renew membership for the period beginning July 1, 2022.
According to Heredia, the board’s recent vote was “not the first time CSBA questioned whether California’s interests were being properly represented by NSBA,” for reasons she said included “CSBA’s inequitable representation in NSBA’s governance structure and the organization’s lack of support for policy issues of importance to California.” Heredia also said, “As a result [of 21 other state school boards associations leaving the NSBA], the organization’s future is in doubt and its present situation does not offer sufficient value to justify continued membership.”
The 21 state school boards associations mentioned by Heredia terminated their NSBA membership or suspended participation in the national association between Oct. 2021 and Feb. 2022. These actions followed a Sept. 2021 letter from the NSBA to Pres. Joe Biden (D) regarding what it described as “threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators.” The NSBA later apologized for sending the letter.
While some state associations are in the process of forming a new organization called the Consortium of State School Boards Associations, Heredia said the CSBA board has chosen not to participate in any other organization and that the association “has been steadily increasing its presence in D.C. to compensate for the growing ineffectiveness of NSBA and allow for more robust and more direct advocacy on federal matters.”
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.
“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.”
“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
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.