Incumbents make up majority of those taking seats this month on boards of education

School boards must hold mandatory reorganizational meetings during the first two weeks in July

FOR RELEASE: July 12, 2022

As newly elected school board members take their oath of office this month, the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) is providing an analysis of the results of the board elections, which were held this year on May 17.

The analysis focused on the 1,453 elected candidates and their challengers, endorsing organizations, campaign platforms, and conversations generated across social and traditional media.

Based on publicly available data sources—including school district websites, social media posts, and media coverage from local and national outlets—NYSSBA’s analysis found:

  • STRONG INCUMBENT SUCCESS: Incumbents running for reelection made up the majority of successful candidates for school board positions, with 54% of all elected candidates being incumbents.
  • TEACHERS’ UNION ENDORSEMENTS HELD WEIGHT: 88% of candidates we identified as being endorsed by the teachers’ union were successfully elected to school boards. Slightly more than half (54%) of the successful, endorsed candidates were incumbents, and 46% were new candidates.
  • MANY ELECTED CANDIDATES AVOIDED HOT BUTTON ISSUES: Most of the 1,453 elected candidates did not base their campaign platform around ‘hot-button issues’ such as DEI, parent curriculum challenges, and COVID restrictions/policies.  Based on the analysis, the majority, though not all, of the candidates who did base their campaign platforms on these issues lost their election.

Since state law requires school boards to conduct reorganizational meetings during the first two weeks in July, NYSSBA is releasing this analysis now. During these reorganizational meetings, newly elected members are sworn-in and take their seats on their local board of education.

"As school boards prepare for the start of the school year, we remind ourselves that public schools form the bedrock of our communities and country, and local school boards ensure that our public schools reflect the values of our local communities," said NYSSBA Executive Director Robert Schneider. "Successful school boards are a critical link to excellence in student achievement and an integral part of the success of our democracy," said Schneider.

On a statewide level, the number of candidates vying for open school board seats this year was on par with previous years, with several districts having higher candidate participation than usual. Some races saw as many as eight or ten candidates competing for as few as two or three vacancies. NYSSBA estimates that fewer incumbents chose to seek re-election than in previous years. About 30% of incumbents whose terms were expiring decided not to run again, compared to about 25% in previous years. Incumbents cited reasons such as being ready to move on to something else, the time commitment associated with board service, and a hostile environment for public officials as reasons for not seeking re-election.

Statewide, voter turnout this year on school district budget vote/board election day was up 23% compared to last year. "We’re grateful that so many citizens recognized the importance of school board elections and showed up to make their voices heard," said Schneider.

WINNING CAMPAIGN THEMES

Elected candidates were actively discussing the following themes on social media and in the news media:

  • COMMUNITY COHESION: Elected candidates stressed strengthening the community when describing their goals and stances. Along with this, they often aimed to promote transparency of decisions across all community stakeholders and, in some cases reuniting divisive communities.  
  • FOSTERING INCLUSIVITY & ACCESS TO RESOURCES: This was a prominent topic mentioned by elected candidates when describing their goals and stances. In particular, elected candidates listed mental health prioritization and resources, focusing on ESL programs and special needs and disability resources.  
  • EXPANSION OF STEM-RELATED PROGRAMS: This was a common goal for many elected candidates, ranging from improving science proficiency to increasing opportunity and curricular offerings around innovation and technology.

Methodology

The results are based on publicly available data sources, including but not limited to school district websites and social media accounts, and media coverage and social media mentions from local and national news outlets & reporters. Over 300 tweets and 1,600 news articles were identified and analyzed, along with over 675 school district websites. All insights and analysis are based on 98% (659 out of 675) of all New York State school board election results.

 

 

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