Iowa school board elections discussion thread

Iowans elected school board members yesterday. Turnout remained depressingly low, considering the importance of public school governance. The Des Moines Register’s editors were right to call for moving school board elections to another time of year either coinciding with city elections in November or in the spring.

Nevertheless, thousands of highly engaged Iowa voters–including many Bleeding Heartland readers–got involved in their local school board races or followed them closely. This thread is for any comments about any election that attracted your attention.

I was thrilled to see Heather Anderson 36 votes ahead, according to unofficial results for the Des Moines School Board District 1 seat. On Monday, I heard longtime Des Moines School Board incumbent Dick Murphy had endorsed the other candidate, which strengthened my belief that Anderson can help change the culture of that board. Incidentally, her hard-working campaign manager was Finn Andersen, a former student in her classroom who is now in high school.

The returns from the Des Moines races pointed to the wisdom of shifting that school board to a combination of wards and at-large seats. More than 2,500 people cast ballots in the District 1 race (covering the west side), compared to fewer than 1,200 voters in District 2 (north side) and fewer than 600 voters in District 3 (east side). For many years, all the Des Moines School Board seats were elected at-large, and west-siders dominated the governing body. I share the widespread opinion that the phenomenon perpetuated inequities in Des Moines public schools.

John Deeth posted a detailed write-up of the Iowa City school board results. Turnout was a bit down from 2013 but still the second-highest recorded. The planned closure of Hoover Elementary has been a divisive issue for the community, reopening some wounds from the losing battle to save Roosevelt Elementary.

Congratulations to Drake University undergraduate Josh Hughes, who won the at-large seat on the I-35 school board. He must be one of the youngest Iowans elected to a school board in recent memory, and I hope others will be inspired by his example. Those who have recently experienced any district’s schools as a student will bring a different perspective to the table, compared to the parents who dominate most school boards.

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