By Srishti Prabha | Observer Staff Reporter
Distance-learning, masking, closures — oscillating guidelines are the norm at Sacramento schools.
Parents are paying closer attention to their district’s decision-making process and now are participating in California’s school board elections at a higher frequency post pandemic.
Or, as California School Board Association’s chief information officer Troy Flint said, the state has seen “an increase in parent engagement after [parents] got a peek into their school’s curriculum and attended online school board meetings.”
In Sacramento County, 10 districts will have school board elections this fall, with 26 candidates running in five of the county’s largest districts. And more than half of the candidates are parents.
CapRadio and The Sacramento Observer Education Reporter Srishti Prabha sent interview questions to all these candidates, part of a project to bring more transparency and awareness to local school board elections. In this guide, you’ll find information about candidates in Elk Grove, Natomas, Sacramento, San Juan and Folsom Cordova, and their views on race, equity and the achievement gap.
Board members are locally elected public officials tasked with governing a community’s public schools.They can have influence over textbooks and educational material, school closures, academic calendars, budgets, disciplinary structure and more. This past year, for instance, the Sacramento City Unified School District’s board approved employee contracts amid a strike that prompted school closure for eight days.
Flint, who leads the communication team for the state school board association, says the tenor throughout state school board elections center on some controversial topics like COVID-19 mitigation tactics, Critical Race Theory (CRT) –a graduate level theory on systemic racism which is believed to be taught in school curriculum–and California’s legislative response to CRT, an ethnic studies requirement for high schools.
School board races are traditionally nonpartisan, yet Democrats and Republicans continue to engage and support candidates. The California Republican Party also has elevated its efforts with a campaign called “Parents Revolt,” a movement to tactfully control local education offices. This election season, perhaps more than most, it is key to understand political endorsements of school board candidates.
For this school board election guide, we sent all candidates identical questions, framed in an open-ended manner and chosen to help readers infer the candidate’s hopes for the education system, from staffing shortages and livable wages to accessible learning and academic support. And, in an effort to be equitable and concise, the same four questions are published for each candidate.
A school board candidate will appear on your ballot if there is an open seat in your district area. There is only one seat per area, which means you will be choosing one candidate.
Your vote in the school board contests is consequential, and we hope this guide will be a resource to help you navigate your local election.
Srishti Prabha is an education reporter and Report For America corps member in collaboration with CapRadio and The Sacramento Observer. Their focus is K-12 education in Sacramento’s Black communities.