As the early ballots are mailed out and Election Day nears, it’s crucial to know exactly who and what you’ll be voting for. Voting is a meaningful way to support the issues you care about and elect the representatives you believe can best carry out the changes you want to see. This National Voter Registration Day, with the considerably wide range of stances and issues we face as a nation, it’s more important than ever to make sure your voice is heard. Furthermore, it’s imperative to know what’s happening in education because when we vote, we aren’t only talking about our future, but also the futures of our children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren. So get out there, register, and then do your research to give a meaningful vote. We’ll help you get started.
Education on the Ballot
In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. “With [ESSA],” President Barack Obama says, “we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.” This measure reauthorizes the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students that was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Now, the U.S. Department of Education is working with states and districts to begin implementing ESSA state plans, which are expected to take full effect in the 2017-2018 school year.
As for the upcoming elections, we’re all certainly aware of the current presidential candidates’ firm stances regarding student loans, education standards, and college tuition. However, tens of millions of American children attend the schools and districts that are being reshaped at the state and local levels, so it’s equally important to be informed about elections in your own state.
School Board Elections
Just as we elect the senators and congress members who vote on policies such as ESSA, we are also able to elect our local school board members. School boards are responsible for representing the respective community’s beliefs and values, and hold substantial influence in preparing children to live productive and happy lives. With this in mind, take an active approach to knowing each candidate’s goals and carefully electing your school board members.
Throughout 2016, 38 states are holding elections for a combined total of 2,041 school board seats. During the 2013-2014 school year, these districts collectively educated almost 17 million students, which is more than one-third of all K-12 students in the United States. While some districts’ elections have already happened, over half of them will take place on Election Day, November 8, 2016.
With over 2,000 seats to fill, it’s impossible to introduce all the candidates here. But please take advantage of the following resources to see who’s running in your state and local district. On either webpage, you can click on any school district to view more about the candidates, selection methods, and results (when available).
- Ballotpedia’s 2016 school board election coverage (includes “elections pages” by state)
- List of all school board elections in 2016
Amendments, Measures, Propositions, and Questions
Currently, 13 states have education-related measures on the general election ballot. Those 13 states will vote on Election Day, November 8, 2016, but in May of this year, Arizona passed Proposition 123 by a very close margin. The passing of this proposition resulted in $3.5 billion of the general fund and state land trust fund being devoted toward education.
This year, Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Rhode Island, and South Dakota have measures on the ballot regarding postsecondary education and student loans. The states below, however, are focusing on K-12 funding, public schools, and the at-risk population.
- Voting “yes” on Proposition 51 (Public School Facility Bonds) will support the distribution of $9 billion in bonds towards improvement and construction of facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.
- Voting “yes” on Proposition 55 (Extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase) will support the extension of a 2012 proposition originally set to expire at the end of 2018. Proposition 55 would extend the expiration until 2030, thus continuing the income tax increases on incomes over $250,000 mostly to fund K-12 education, but also community colleges, and, in certain years, healthcare.
- Voting “yes” on Proposition 58 (Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education) will support the repeal of English-only immersion requirements and waiver provisions that were put in place by Proposition 227 in 1998. Proposition 58 would no longer require English-only education for English language learners, and schools would be allowed to develop bilingual education programs in which teachers can speak English and other languages during class.
- Voting “yes” on Amendment 1 (Authorization of the State Government to Intervene in Failing Local Schools) will authorize the state to form an Opportunity School District that would govern certain elementary and secondary schools determined to be “chronically failing.” A “no” vote, on the other hand, would keep these schools under the supervision of school boards and districts.
- Voting “yes” on Question 2 (Tax on Incomes Exceeding $200,000 for Public Education) will support an additional 3 percent tax on the portion of any household income that exceeds $200,000 annually. Revenue from the additional tax would go towards public education funding.
- Voting “yes” on Question 2 (Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion) will support the authorization of up to twelve new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools annually, as approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
- New Mexico
- Voting “yes” on Bond Question C (Capital Expenditures for Higher, Special, and Tribal Education) will support the allocation of certain general obligation bonds towards funding for capital improvements and acquisitions for higher education, special schools, and tribal schools. This measure pertains specifically to the NM School for the Deaf (preschool-12), the NM School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (birth-12), and various state colleges and universities.
- North Dakota
- Voting “yes” on Constitutional Measure 2 (Allocation of Oil Extraction Taxes) will support the legislature’s ability to allocate excess revenues from oil extraction taxes from the foundation aid stabilization fund to be used for educational purposes. A “no” vote would leave this ability only to the governor.
- Voting “yes” on State Question 779 (One Percent Sales Tax) will support a one percent increase in state sales tax to generate an estimated $615 million per year for education funding. With over half of the revenue going towards teacher raises, the remaining amount would be divided into grants, early childhood programs, vocation and technology education, and higher education.
- Voting “yes” on Measure 98 (State Funding for Dropout Prevention and College Readiness) will support the requirement of legislature to fund state-monitored dropout prevention and career and college readiness programs in state high schools. Initially, this would require at least $800 in funding per student, though the amount would be adjusted accordingly each year.
- Voting “yes” on Measure 99 (Outdoor School Lottery Fund) will support the creation of an “Outdoor School Education Fund.” Financed by state lottery proceeds, this fund would provide all fifth and sixth grade Oregon students the opportunity to attend a weeklong outdoor school program (or an equivalent outdoor education experience). A “no” vote would maintain the current funding structure, wherein Oregon State University awards individual grants to school districts.
Learn about other measures in your state that will be on the ballot this November.
How to Register in Your State
Nearly all of the states have different deadlines to register (some as soon as October 8th!), so make sure you’re well aware of your state’s 2016 voter registration deadlines. Additionally, while most states have an online registration process, some still require you to mail your information. Visit the official voter registration website of the United States Government to learn about your state’s voter registration process and get started as soon as possible.
Come November, make sure you’re prepared for your voice to be heard on issues regarding education and other serious matters.
Other important resources:
- Find your state or local election office website for additional voting guidance.
- Learn about public education in your state, including academic performance, funding and spending, and state agencies.
- Read more about relevant education issues in politics.
- Learn more about National Voter Registration Day and find related events being planned around the nation.
- Find out how to contact your state senator and how to be effective in doing so.
- Read more about the U.S. Department of Education’s current laws and policies.
Source: “2016 Presidential Candidates on Education.” Ballotpedia. 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/2016_presidential_candidates_on_education.
Source: “Education Reform at the State and Local Levels (2016).” Ballotpedia. 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/Education_reform_at_the_state_and_local_levels_(2016).
Source: “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).” U.S. Department of Education. 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. http://www.ed.gov/essa.
Source: Klein, Alyson. “The Every Student Succeeds Act: An ESSA Overview.” Education Week. March 31, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/every-student-succeeds-act/.
Source: “List of School Board Elections in 2016.” Ballotpedia. 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/List_of_school_board_elections_in_2016.
Source: Marans, Daniel, and Kim Bellware. “7 Reasons You Should Vote In This Year’s Elections.” The Huffington Post. February 19, 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/reasons-to-vote-in-elections_us_56c776e2e4b041136f16e9ad.
Source: “What School Boards Do.” National School Boards Association. 2016. Accessed September 21, 2016. https://www.nsba.org/about-us/what-school-boards-do.