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School board races in two major metro areas steal national political spotlight

NEA President: It’s amazing what can happen when parents, community work with educators

WASHINGTON - November 04, 2015 -

As political pundits are preoccupied with the 2016 U.S. presidential race, school board races in two major metropolitan areas today stole the national political spotlight and could be an indicator of the role education will play in next year’s high-stakes election.

In Colorado, voters overwhelmingly chose to recall three members of the Jefferson County Board of Education in addition to electing two other candidates to form an entirely new five-member board. Jefferson County Public Schools is the state’s largest school district by enrollment and serves more than 85,000 students in grades K-12. The school board came under fire last year when it decided to censor public education by making controversial changes to AP history courses. Parents and the community transferred that outrage into action at the ballot box.

“It’s amazing what can happen when parents and the community work with teachers and other educators,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “School boards that make decisions behind closed doors and spend money on attorneys and public relations consultants instead of in the classroom where it benefits students are concerns shared by all parents across the country. When more than 1,000 educators leave a school district—which accounts for double the percentage from the previous year—something is wrong. Today, parents and the community made their voices heard.”

Indeed, when teachers, parents, students and community members work together for their public schools, they get powerful results. That was clear in St. Paul, Minn., where voters overwhelmingly picked four new school board members who were backed by a community coalition calling for a change of course in their district, Saint Paul Public Schools. Educators and parents there have been concerned with the growing academic and discipline disparities among white students and students of color along with perennial issues of class sizes, curriculum and technology in classrooms.

“This election shows the good that can happen when parents and educators unite for the benefit of the community’s children,” said Eskelsen García. “Major decisions that affect students—like whether or not a public school is resourced—are made in part by local school boards. That’s why it is vitally important to elect school board candidates who are truly pro-public education because we’ve seen what can happen when they don’t have students at the center of their agendas.”

The sweeping changes ushered in by voters point to a public desire for school boards to consist of members who have both pro-public education and pro-union values.

“In both Colorado and Minnesota, we witnessed today the power that can happen when members of the community work together with educators to strengthen public education for all students,” added Eskelsen García.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at

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Education Votes: Engaging and recruiting activists in the fight for public education, higher education and strengthening the middle class.