Pennsylvania school boards to see large turnover
By Kayla McCann
Sixteen of the top enrollment districts in Pennsylvania, including its second-largest, Pittsburgh Public Schools, will hold elections on November 5, 2013 for a total of 68 seats. Just 37 of the 98 candidates vying for the open school board seats are incumbents, thereby guaranteeing that at least nearly half of the seats will be won by newcomers. Therefore, school boards in the state will generally see significant turnover following the general election. School board elections in Pennsylvania are partisan races and each district held a primary election on May 21, 2013.
With the election approaching, candidates are highlighting the issues that impact their particular district, instead of issues affecting the whole state. Still, budget gaps and debates regarding financial responsibility are the most prominent and consistent issues facing Pennsylvania districts, including Downingtown Area School District and Central Dauphin School District. School board candidates in Allentown City School District and Reading School District have also drawn attention to academic performance issues and poor graduation rates in those districts. Other candidates, such as those in Pennsbury School District, are debating over support for teacher unions and tax increases.
Spotlight: North Penn School District
Eight candidates are vying for the four open seats on the North Penn school board. Significant partisanship in the race has resulted in the formation of two competing slates of challengers: Next S.T.E.P. versus Republican candidates. Next S.T.E.P. is a North Penn organization determined to put progressive candidates on the school board. Murali Balaji, Paul Edelman, Jr., Alex Ryabin and Tina Stoll are all Next S.T.E.P. candidates running on the Democratic ticket. Incumbents Timothy S. Kerr, Vincent Sherpinsky and Frank O'Donnell and former member Josie Charnock are running on the Republican ticket. The board currently includes seven Republicans and two Democrats. With four seats open, the board majority could shift from Republican to Democratic control even if only three Democratic candidates win. The newly elected board will need to address several issues in the district. This is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement between the North Penn school board and the North Penn Education Association, which will require the new board to negotiate with the teacher’s union beginning in January. Additionally, the school board will confront budgetary issues, new testing procedures and an ongoing charter school debate within the district.
- Adam Clark, The Morning Call, "Five of six Allentown School Board candidates advance," May 29, 2013
- Reading Eagle, "School board hopefuls ready to face challlenges," May 18, 2013
- Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf, Bucks County Courier Times, "Beholden to no one," October 31, 2013
- Next Step for NPSD, "It's time for New Leadership," accessed September 20, 2013
- Becca Rosenblatt, Knight Crier, "School Board election headlines local races," October 28, 2013