Wednesday, April 17, 2013

School Board Members: Re-election and Turnover

KASB has begun a series of training workshops for local school board members elected April 2, starting in Garden City yesterday, Oakley today and Beloit tomorrow. We will be in Kansas City Saturday, Greenbush next Tuesday, Clearwater Wednesday and Topeka Thursday, with two final Saturday sessions in Hays May 4 and Hutchinson June 22. New board members, experienced board members and district administrators can register to attend here.

School district elections were a big issue this Legislative session, with a number of bills proposed that would change the date of elections. None passed, but the debate will continue next session. Our KASB research director, Jim Hays, has just compiled his biennial report on school board elections.

The 372 new board members elected this year are the smallest "freshman class" since KASB started keeping records 40 years ago. That's partly because in most districts, three of the seven board seats were on the ballot this year, rather than four seats; partly because there are fewer board seat available due to consolidation of districts; and party because 88.3% of board members who were seeking reelection won. That re-election percentage is the second-highest on record. The highest rate was 88.9% two years ago.

From 1973 to 1981, re-election rates averaged about 82%. Between 1983 and 1999, re-election rates averaged between 75% and 80%. Since 2001, over 84% of board members who sought reelection won.

However, school boards also experience significant turn-over. Since 1973, an average of 35% of board members decide not to run for reelection in each two-year cycle. About 1.5% are defeated in the primary and about 10.5% are defeated in the general election. In other words, about 45% of individual elected every two years are new.

This year is no exception. When the 372 new members elected this year take office on July 1 are combined with the 521 new members elected in 2011, it means 44.7% of school board members in Kansas will have served two years or less.

These results indicate that there is a high level of satisfaction with the performance of school boards at the local level, from the voters closest to local schools. That's a contrast to frequent criticism of school board financial management and educational outcomes heard at the state level. It also shows that there is a consistent blend of new and experienced board members undertaking the constitutional duty to "maintain, develop and operate" public schools.

The KASB research bulletin with this election data is available to members by going to and Research, then clicking on "Research Publications." If you are not yet logged into the website you will receive a prompt.)

For more information, contact KASB Research Director Jim Hays.

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