We Can Win School Board Elections! – Intercessors for America

Recently, Michael Hartney, a professor of political science and a senior fellow and writer at the Manhattan Institute, published an excellent article sharing his extensive research on how the National Education Association’s endorsements help win elections for seven out of every ten candidates it supports. But such successful use of endorsements need not be limited to the left-leaning NEA. Politically conservative candidates can learn to make the endorsements they receive a successful strategy for winning school board seats!

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School boards gained power and influence through the evolutionary process set in place during the 1930s by progressive educators. Early school boards in America were simple: Each school had a board comprising local citizens. That model grew to some 150,000 boards, serving the educational efforts of communities for almost 30 years. In the 1930s, progressive educators, thinking they would save money, began consolidating local schools under a single board. Thus, the 150,000 boards dwindled down to the now 13,809 district school boards that make decisions for some 53.9 million K-12 students. Today, many of these boards manage multimillion-dollar budgets and make policy decisions that impact students’ lives for years.

Ideally, the people who live in a district elect the men and women who hold school board seats. Reality paints a different picture. The NEA, the education industry’s powerful labor union, is the prime determinator of who runs for and wins a school board seat. The NEA wields the bulk of its power by endorsing candidates who will work to bring in as much money as possible for the union.

In 2021–2022, parents across the country realized the tremendous power school boards hold over a community, and they began stepping up to run for seats. Surprisingly, many of them won, ousting incumbents and defeating many liberal candidates, which started a trend that conservatives hope will continue. Those brave enough to engage have realized that conservatives who run for a school board position face massive opposition from the NEA and the other major education union, the American Federation of Teachers. The combined membership of these unions exceeds 3 million. And their liberal agenda holds significant sway over American education, as seen at election time.

Hartney’s research yields insights that increase knowledge of the unions’ candidate-selection process. This shows how conservatives may engage in the endorsement process, giving our candidates the support they need to win. Here are some vital takeaways for anyone seeking to run for school board:

1. Address voter misconceptions about unions.

According to post-election surveys, many voters believe that because unions have been around so long, they’re more knowledgeable and willing to address the needs of students and teachers. The truth is, when the interests of a school, a parent, or a student conflict with the union’s interest, union power wins out, and union-sponsored school board members prioritize the union’s needs over those of anyone else.

2. Realize the power of a union endorsement.

A union’s endorsement increases voter support by some 6 percentage points and packs a bigger electoral punch for candidates than even incumbency or any district’s academic-achievement gains.

3. When campaigning, point out a union-backed candidate’s loyalty to the union.

Regardless of what a union-backed candidate says in support of parental rights, children’s rights, or commitment to raising academic skills, Hartney points out that the only consistent predictor of union support for incumbents is whether the district raised salaries for senior teachers just before an election. Hartney asserts that groups wishing to counteract union dominance must find ways to ensure that ordinary voters know the policy priorities of union-backed candidates.

4. Don’t focus on changing the low-turnout election cycles of school board elections.

Hartney gives research to show that off-the-voting-cycle, low-turnout elections in which the majority of voters are teachers or relatives of teachers will never swing the vote. He says candidates should focus on turning out motivated voters who align with student and parental values.

5. Know your voter.

Research shows that the elderly (essentially, childless adults) turn out disproportionately for school board elections. Many childless adults remember school as a positive learning place where their teachers had taught them valuable academic life skills.

6. Publicize the school’s ‘report card.’

In the past, many school districts published yearly “report cards” for their local schools. A school would receive a grade ranging from A to F, based on its academic achievements. More recently, though, many school districts have stopped publishing these district reports, not wanting the public to become aware of any dismal academic results. Information about this is available on The Nation’s Report Card, published by the U.S. Department of Education.

7. Use Florida’s DeSantis model for endorsing school board candidates.

Before the 2022 Florida elections, Gov. Ron DeSantis put out a ten-point commitment for school board candidates. Thirty candidates signed onto it, and DeSantis endorsed those candidates. The outcome demonstrated the success of those endorsements: 20 of the 30 who signed onto the commitment won school board seats.

Hartney suggests that significant endorsements will always come from like-minded politicians.

We can surely break the power of the NEA and the AFT over our children! Let’s look to God for the wisdom to move forward with new awareness of this task before us.

Lord, may all our students come to learn that You alone are the center of all knowledge and understanding.

Find out how your local schools are doing. Go to Nation’s Report Card. Anyone wanting to know their state’s average test scores can access the scores through this link. Go to Nationsreportcard.govClick on Data Tools in the top menu. Click on State Profiles. In the prompt, enter your state.

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Nancy Huff is an educator with a mission to equip believers to pray strategically for the cultural mountain of education. She is the author of Taking the Mountain of Education: A Strategic Prayer Guide to Transform American Schools; Safety Zone: Scriptural Prayers to Revolutionize Your School; and Decrees for Your School. She leads groups for prayer at key educational locations across the U.S. Find out more by visiting Photo Credit: rattanakun via Canva Pro.

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