Incumbent school board members, candidates who were endorsed by teachers’ unions and those who avoided “hot-button” issues like curriculum content, diversity and COVID-19 policies saw the most succuess in this year’s school board races around New York, according to an analysis released on Tuesday by the New York State School Boards Association.
The analysis comes after local school board races in New York and around the country drew more attention than usual as candidates and parents’ groups that have organized around concerns that ranged from indoor masking rules and school closures to challenging curricula ran for board positions.
Polarizing national issues that had spilled into Facebook group chats and school board meetings led to campaigns and platforms based on those concerns in some communities.
But the analysis of 1,453 candidates conducted by the school boards association found voters in many of these races instead supported incumbents, with 54% of elected candidates returning to office. Candidates endorsed by teachers’ unions also saw the most success, with 88% of those endorsed by labor groups winning re-election.
The association’s analysis focused on a variety of sources, from media coverage to social media accounts of campaigns spread over 675 school districts.
And a majority of the candidates who won shied away from polarizing issues. Instead, the analysis found the most successful platforms for school board candidates centered around “community cohesion” and supporting an expansion of course offerings for science and technology courses.
“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 Robert Schneider, the board’s executive director. “Successful school boards are a critical link to excellence in student achievement and an integral part of the success of our democracy.”