Financial policies, education standards at stake in November school board elections

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October 10, 2013

By Nick Katers

Voters throughout the United States will head to the polls on November 5, 2013 to choose representatives for their local school boards. There are 204 school districts among the largest districts by enrollment in the United States holding elections for 669 seats. This preview looks at the major issues and debates facing school boards around the country ahead of the 2013 elections.


A total of 39 school districts among California's largest districts by enrollment will hold elections for 120 seats. The El Monte Union High School District elections take place amidst declining budgets and teacher layoffs that have drawn protests from parents and concerned residents.[1] Another election issue in California districts like the Las Virgenes Unified School District is the replacement of existing state standards with Common Core State Standards.[2] Baldwin Park Unified School District and Menifee Union School District are among several districts in California dealing with the intricacies of charter school development.


Voters in 20 school districts among Colorado's largest districts by enrollment will cast ballots for 62 seats on November 5. Board candidates in Greeley-Evans School District 6 have taken sides in a statewide debate over the property tax increase for public education proposed in Amendment 66.[3] Douglas County School District has attracted national attention with a debate over pay-for-performance policies for teachers and the involvement of outside groups. A slate of candidates opposing the board's reform policies will face off against four candidates who support the current board. The Adams 12 Five Star School Board election is set against a federal investigation into financial wrongdoing by district officials involving millions of dollars.[4]


Eight school districts among Connecticut's largest districts by enrollment will hold elections for 35 seats on November 5. The race for school board seats in Bridgeport has grown contentious with challengers opposing school reforms supported by Mayor Bill Finch, Superintendent Paul Vallas and current members. The district emerged from a state takeover orchestrated by Mayor Finch in July 2012 that was overturned by the Connecticut State Supreme Court. Stamford Public Schools is among several districts in Connecticut struggling for solutions to overcrowded classrooms in the midst of a struggling local economy.[5]


Ten school districts among the largest districts by enrollment in Massachusetts will hold elections for 48 seats. The Springfield Public Schools election acts as a referendum on the district's efforts to reduce the achievement gap with a new attendance initiative and partnership with Harvard University.[6][7] Voters in Brockton can determine if board control remains the same or swings to new members by voting on the lone competitive seat.


The November 5 elections in Ohio feature 58 seats on the ballot in 19 districts among the state's largest districts by enrollment. Akron Public Schools and Cincinnati Public Schools are among districts concerned with declining student performance on new state evaluations. The board election in Columbus features debates over a proposed tax levy and a state investigation into attendance policies that manipulated district evaluations.[8][9]


Voters in 17 school districts among Pennsylvania's largest districts by enrollment will cast ballots for 72 seats. A common thread in this year's board elections is the wave of newcomers poised to win seats. Council Rock School District, Pennsbury School District, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Reading School District each have only one incumbent running for re-election for 18 available seats.


A total of 11 school districts among the state's largest by enrollment will hold elections for 32 seats on November 5. The Spring Independent School District elections are cast against a violent incident on September 3, 2013 that resulted in one murdered student and three injured students. The incident has raised questions about why the district has not purchased metal detectors despite a 2011 bond measure approved for that purpose. Voters in Beaumont Independent School District expected to cast ballots in May, 2013, but the election was delayed until November due to allegations regarding failures to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The district responded to these allegations by using a federally approved district map from 2001 instead.[10]


Voters in 11 school districts among Virginia's largest by enrollment will cast ballots for 28 board seats. Board elections throughout the state feature familiar faces with incumbents running for re-election for all available seats in five districts. Rockingham County Public Schools is the only district without incumbents seeking re-election and therefore its two seats will be filled by newcomers.


Voters in the state's top 35 districts by enrollment will go to the polls to select candidates for 80 seats. A major issue facing Washington schools is uneven funding from the Washington State Legislature, as found by the Washington State Supreme Court in the 2012 McCleary v. Washington decision. Districts including Seattle Public Schools and Yakima School District have witnessed rising enrollment but confront budgetary struggles due in part to decreased state funding. The state of Washington has also moved toward developing charters after voter approval of a 2012 initiative that allows the formation of 40 charter schools by 2017. Spokane Public Schools was the first district authorized to develop charter schools and board members in Tacoma Public Schools have reversed their initial opposition to charter schools.[11][12]

See also


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