Politics & Education – Part II – The Impact of State Elections

Unlike educational policies on the federal level, state elections impact education on more of a local level. Instead of looking at the bigger picture, state officials focus on the day-to-day things that affect how schools operate.  State elections can be just as influential as federal elections in how they affect school districts.

During an election cycle, the candidates for governor, state senators, and state congressmen develop their own educational platforms that they “promise”.   Connecting with as many constituents in person during their campaign is critical.  They also have an online campaign to get their message out to everyone.  You’ll know these as TV ads, social media or written ads in newspapers.  Goals of the campaign are to get voters familiar with who they are, what they stand for and why vote for them.   

State officials discuss other important topics including:

  • Infrastructure like roads and bridges
  • Police and firemen
  • The local economy and jobs

Education is a large part of their platform and it doesn’t get as easily overshadowed as it does at the federal level.  That means you’re far more likely to hear a candidate’s position on education during state elections.

State elections are very influential in the day-to-day operations of schools.  They actually impact our educational system more than federal elections do.

On the state level, education legislation revolves around:

Governors, Senators, and Congressmen have a lot of influence on how administrators and teachers do their jobs and the resources school districts and children receive.

Depending on who is in office and their political focus, administrators and teachers can be highly valued and rewarded for a job well done or they can be looked down upon, neglected, and under-appreciated.  Students will experience more of an educational equity or the resource gap will continue to grow.  Based on how state and local taxes support school districts, there will be a certain level of inadequate resources for those school districts in rural and disadvantaged districts. 

State elections impact education when a new Governor appoints other state educational leaders.  These are often political appointments and are not always in the best interest of the state’s educational system.

In some states these appointed positions include the State Board of Education members and the Chief State School Officer.   In other states, the State Board of Education members or the Chief State School Officer has to be elected.

Whether elected or appointed by an elected official, people in these positions are responsible for managing the state’s K12 education which means they create policies and direct funding to school districts.

Educational legislation changes as federal and state legislation changes.   Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some  Governors dictated mask requirements for everyone and put  vaccine mandates in place while other Governors chose to make this an individual choice. Education and politics are intertwined on so many levels and as political views and beliefs change so too do the educational policies.