What to Make of the Kansas City School Board Elections
The results are (finally) in. After over a week of vote counting—all of the candidates were write-ins because no candidate got enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, so it took a while— the Star is reporting that Natalie Lewis has been elected to the Kansas City Public School board to represent Subdistrict 1, John Fierro has been elected to represent Subdistrict 3, and Ajia Morris has been elected to represent Subbdistrict 5.
The outcome has been overshadowed by the breaking story that one candidate, Catina Taylor, is alleged to have organized an unsanctioned field trip from the school where she was substitute teaching to have students help her campaign.
But, setting that nugget aside, let’s look at the results, because I think they tell us something interesting.
According to the American Community Survey, there are 148,810 individuals of voting age who live within the boundaries of the Kansas City Missouri Public Schools. That means that Lewis, with 1,852 votes, was elected by 1.2% of voters. Fierro, with 554 votes, was elected by 0.4%, and Morris, with 651 votes, was elected with 0.4%. Even if you divide the total population by 6 (for each of the 6 subdistricts), they earned the support of 7.4%, 2.2%, and 2.6% of their subdistrict’s voters, respectively.
As I have written before, a common argument of those opposed to school choice is that the only way for families and the community to have a voice in the public education system is to have elected bodies oversee the schools. Given these results, just how representative of the body politic were these candidates? What is their mandate?
Elections are decided by those who show up, and I’d like to give the candidates credit for sticking their necks out and running in a tough environment for an unattractive job leading an unpopular organization. But moments like this are an opportunity to take stock and think about where the community’s involvement is in education. It clearly isn’t in the large, bureaucratic, top-down school district.