Ballotpedia finds voters delivered a message to incumbents in April.
by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, June 7, 2022
The political fallout from school closings and curriculum battles continues, as school board incumbents are losing at an unusual rate. That’s the news from Ballotpedia, which analyzed recent school board elections in three states.
“Incumbents lost at nearly twice the historical average,” the website that tracks election results reported last week. Parents are revolting over how districts handled Covid and how schools teach race and gender. School board candidates campaigned on at least one of these issues in 141 school district elections in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
A third of incumbents lost re-election, compared to an average of 18% in the races Ballotpedia tracked from 2018 to 2021. Candidates who opposed woke instruction or Covid policies such as the shutdowns or mask mandates won 36% of the 334 seats in these districts. Those with unclear positions won 19%, Ballotpedia says. Candidates taking a more progressive stance won 45%.
Voter recall efforts have also soared. Not all are successful, but Ballotpedia tracked attempts to boot 126 board members in 2021, up from 28 in 2019. Recalls have already been mounted against 77 current board members.
This surge in successful challenges is welcome because the root problem with public schools has long been traceable to failed monopoly governance. School boards are dominated by teacher’s unions, which have an intense interest in the outcome. Parents who have day jobs and lack the time to monitor school instruction are at a disadvantage, and school board elections typically take place on primary or other days when turnout is low.
“Union-endorsed candidates win roughly 70 percent of all competitive school board elections,” Boston College’s Michael Hartney discovered after examining school board races in California and Florida over an extended duration. His findings were published in January in the journal Interest Groups & Advocacy.
The pandemic shutdowns gave parents more incentive and opportunity to pay attention and, when they did, many school boards dismissed their concerns. Teachers union leaders these days, even at the local level, aren’t focused on student performance as they once were. They’re part of an increasingly ideological vanguard that follows progressive national dictates no matter what parents might prefer. Recall the recent investigation of three students in rural Kiel, Wis. of all places, for not using politically correct woke pronouns.
It isn’t clear how long this parental interest will persist once memories of the lockdowns fade, and the unions and incumbents will try to ride out the revolt. School choice is the best long-run antidote to the progressive union monopoly. But parents who are taking on the burden and risk of challenging entrenched boards are acting in the best tradition of American self-government.