Education Opinion

Don’t Forget to Vote

By Sara Mead — November 01, 2010 2 min read

You may have heard that there’s an election tomorrow?

Here in D.C., tomorrow’s midterm elections are an unavoidable topic of conversation. And if you live in a state where your vote actually counts, there’s a good chance you’ve seriously considered disconnecting your phone to avoid calls from various candidates’ campaigns.

Lots of attention has obviously focused on mid-term House and Senate races and which party will control Congress following the election. For smart commentary on that topic, look to my colleague Eduwonk or the very smart Andrew Kelly, who will be blogging at Rick Hess’s place the rest of this week.

But the down-ticket races--State Legislature, Local School Board, other municipal or county offices depending on where you live--actually have a lot more direct impact on education in states and communities.

And it can be really hard for voters to accurately assess where candidates stand on key education issues. Busy people don’t have a lot of time to devote to sussing out the policy positions of numerous candidates for state and local offices (not just on education, but on all the issues we care about!). And the education sections of candidates’ websites are often written in feel-good generalities that provide voters with little useful information other than that the candidate thinks education is good (yay, you get an apple, but not necessarily my vote). I’m getting a bunch of e-mails today from friends in D.C. wanting to know who they should vote for for D.C. State Board of Education. Do you even know who’s running for your state or local school board? Or what state legislative district you live in and who’s running in it?

I’m going to avoid the temptation to try to make this post into a larger argument about school governance and “democratic control of public education.” I find pretty compelling the arguments that the profusion of elected local offices--from ANC Commissioners in D.C. to Sheriffs and Judges in some states--while done in the name of democratic control may actually lead to worse outcomes. But I’m also aware that research doesn’t indicate that changing school governance arrangements necessarily produces better outcomes.

But I will encourage everyone to spend a few minutes today finding out who’s on the ballot for legislature, school board, and other key state and local offices where you live, and finding out where they stand on key education issues.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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