Unless you reside in of New York’s “Big Five” school districts (Buffalo, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers), you have the opportunity to vote in school board and budget elections on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Big Five district votes are held on Election Day in November, but all other New York school districts hold votes on the third Tuesday in May.
For numerous reasons, school board elections are often sleepy occasions. One reason that school board elections attract little attention is that few candidates run for school board seats. Ballotpedia research demonstrates that nationwide, candidates run unopposed in 24%-40% of school board races in an average year. Ballotpedia also found that incumbents won between 51% and 61% of seats each year, and that 79%-89% of incumbents who sought re-election won each year. For those who believe that our nation’s public schools need change, these statistics can be challenging and even discouraging to hear. However, things are looking very different in 2022.
Anecdotally, it appears that school board races this year are attracting much greater attention than usual. What is the cause of this increased interest? For starters, remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused more parents to become actively engaged in their children’s education. As students returned to the classroom, parents got involved in advocating for changes to social distancing requirements and mask mandates. Also, parents have become much more aware of and concerned about classroom curricula that address age-inappropriate topics like sexuality and gender identity. Concerns about critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are also leading to more engagement in school board races.
Historically, there is little interest and abysmal voter turnout in school elections. Let’s change the trajectory of public education by voting at our local school districts’ polling places on Tuesday, May 17.