Education On the Ballot: 2018 Midterms

November 5, 2018
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Midterms InfographicUnless you’ve just woken up from a fairly long coma, you know that the midterm elections are Tuesday, November 6th. The midterm elections always experience a lower voter turnout than years when the presidency is up for grabs, but crucial elections are happening tomorrow, especially with regards to the future of education, all across the country.

News coverage is focusing extensively on whether Republicans will retain control of Congress, continuing the national narrative of Red vs. Blue, but that’s not the whole story. As Erik Robelen points out in his article Education and the 2018 Elections,

“To be sure, if Democrats gain a majority in the House, as some predict, that would change the political dynamics over federal policy and funding on education, and Congress’ oversight of the U.S. Department of Education. But so many key decisions on education are made at the state and local levels.

Thirty-six governors’ seats are in play this November, including for the nation’s five most populous states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.”

If you click on the helpful infographic from Education Commissions of the States above, it points out how many of the governors seeking election will appoint state education leaders.

But it’s not just governors that will decide the near future for education. There are at least 400 school board elections on ballots all across the country. Robelen writes,

“These elections can have a profound impact. After all, school boards set local policy and regulations, hire the superintendent, adopt the curriculum, and oversee implementation of state and federal requirements. They also oversee millions — and in the case of some large districts, billions — of dollars in education funding.”

Emily Richmond, who also writes for EWA.org, wrote that “In non-presidential election years, when voter turnout is often substantially lower across the board, school board races are often decided by a small fraction of the eligible voters. (Many voters simply skip those items on the ballot, in fact.)

School board members end up having a lot of control about what teachers can and can’t teach and what students can and can not read. Frequently on CBLDF.org, we report on books banned (or retained after an attempt to ban) all over the U.S. where the deciding factor came from a school board review.

Earlier this year, the Cody School Board in Wyoming voted 5-1 to ban Tanya Stone’s A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl from district libraries. In banning the book, the board trustees ignored a review committee recommendation to keep the book. The board also voted to implement library software that would notify parents of their children’s reading habits unless the parents opt out of the notifications.

School boards often have the last word when it comes to banning books from classrooms and libraries. In Katy, Texas a Superintendent pulled The Hate U Give without review after a parent read excerpts of it aloud at a school board meeting, but the ban was challenged for not adhering to the school district’s policy, leaving the fate of the acclaimed YA novel in the hands of the school board once again.

To check and see if your ballot will have a school board seat up for election this year, you can enter the address where you are registered to vote at Ballotpedia.org, and they’ll show you what your ballot should contain. If you want to see more information about school board elections all over the country, check out https://ballotpedia.org/School_board_elections,_2018 for a list of the over 900 school board seats they are tracking.

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