School board elections in Alaska and Wisconsin spark debates over budgets, academic performance
By Nick Katers
Voters in Alaska and Wisconsin will cast ballots for school board candidates on April 1, 2014. Residents of Anchorage School District can choose from six candidates for two available seats. Victorious candidates will confront budgetary issues in the school district that have forced layoffs for 219 employees for the 2014-2015 school year.
Eleven Wisconsin school districts among the nation's largest districts by enrollment are holding elections for 30 seats. There are competitive board elections in Appleton, Janesville, Kenosha, Madison, Racine and West Allis. Board candidates in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sheboygan and Waukesha are running unopposed. Candidates across the state have debated the best methods for improving academic performance. These discussions have ranged from the best implementation of Common Core standards in Janesville to the merits of a technology initiative in Madison that uses $27.7 million in public funds to increase student exposure to computers.
Spotlight: Kenosha Unified School District
The race for two seats on the Kenosha Board of Education has exposed tensions within the district. Current member Jo Ann Taube has defended the board's decision to negotiate a new contract with the teachers' union in 2013 despite a state law limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees. She argues that the contract provided stability among teachers after two years of uncertainty. Challengers Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade have been vocal opponents of the negotiations. Taube has also been criticized by former board member Pam Stevens for using racially insensitive comments during a candidate forum on January 29, 2014. These accusations have been rebuked by Taube as political maneuvering by Stevens, who supports Kunich and Wade.
District residents have also expressed concerns over the behavior of board member Kyle Flood. The board unanimously voted during a February 25 meeting to censure Flood for citations issued by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater police officers. Flood, a student at the university, was ticketed for possession of drug paraphernalia on November 11, 2013 and vandalism in late December 2013. The vote was supported by board president Rebecca Stevens and Jo Ann Taube. Both members noted the district's efforts to ensure drug-free campuses in their support for the vote. District resident and former teacher Kristi Lacroix initiated an online petition to force Flood's removal from office after the incident became public. On February 14, 2014, Flood issued an apology but stated that he will not resign from the board.
Candidates have raised $18,754.32 and spent $10,510.27 ahead of the election based on pre-election reports from the school board secretary. Dan Wade ($6,498.72) leads the field in terms of total contributions while Gary J. Kunich ($3,657.52) has reported the highest expenditures.
- School board elections, 2014
- Alaska school board elections, 2014
- Alaska elections, 2014
- Wisconsin school board elections, 2014
- Wisconsin elections, 2014
- The Nation, "Anchorage School District Plans to Cut 219 Positions, Including 159 Teachers," January 27, 2014
- GazetteXtra, "Janesville School Board candidates tackle issues during forum," March 5, 2014
- The Capital Times, "MTI issues dual endorsement in Madison school board race," February 22, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Racism accusation aimed at School Board member," February 21, 2014
- Kenosha News, "School board votes to censure Flood," February 25, 2014
- Kenosha News, "Unified board president, vice president support Flood censure," February 14, 2014
- Information submitted to Ballotpedia through email from Stacy Busby on March 25, 2014.