From classroom censorship to academic wellness during the midterm elections, much has been at stake for public education.

A week after the midterm elections, not all races have been set, but we’re starting to see how key issues in the K-12 space will be handled amid new leadership and policies.

At least seven full-time superintendents and 51 state boards of elections before the electionsa lot was at stake.

In mid-October, a few weeks before the midterm elections, a Pew Research Center The poll found that education was the top three issue for voters: 66% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 64% of all voters. A Washington Post — ABC News poll found similar results, with 59% of voters saying education was a “very important” issue in who they vote for in Congress, and 18% calling it “one of the most important issues.”

Dr. John B. King, Jr, president of The Education Trust and former secretary of education under President Obama, says the top education issue that still keeps him up at night is equity in public schools. He says that our economy and democracy depend on solving the problem of education.

“The majority of children in the nation’s public schools are children of color, the majority of children in the nation’s public schools participate in free and reduced lunch programs,” King says. “If we don’t improve—very soon—the provision of educational opportunities to low-income students and students of color, we will have no future as a country.”

But his teachers give him hope. He says classrooms and teachers across the country continue to save children’s lives — just like his. After his parents died when he was 8 and 12, King credits New York City public school teachers with saving his life by making school a safe, supportive and inviting place.

“As difficult as COVID is for children and families, there are stories in every community of teachers who have gone above and beyond to help their children with their studies, help them get food, figure out how to deal with the trauma of losing a loved one, – says King. “The beauty of what teachers do every day for children across America gives me great hope.”

Let’s take a look at how education issues played out during the midterm elections.

There is a long battle ahead for censorship in schools

Over the past few years, there have been many attempts at censorship in classrooms, be it cross-cutting book banslimiting the discussions around gender and sexuality, or blocking the teaching of the truth about racism and other forms of prejudice — what opponents mistakenly call “critical race theory.” And it looks like these battles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Election monitoring site Ballotpedia analyzed 361 school board electionsand his analysis found that 36% of candidates opposing diversity initiatives and gender-neutral curriculum won their races, compared to 28% of winners who supported the policies.

“Midterm elections are taking place against the background of intense censorship activities almost everywhere in the country,” he says Dr. Chris Finanexecutive director National Coalition Against Censorship. He mentioned the landslide re-election of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who led efforts to ban books, especially those dealing with race and racism, slavery and LGBTQ+ issues. “There’s a lot of anger, and some of that anger is directed at the problems with the book, and a lot of ambitious politicians have seized on the issue to help them build support and run for office.”

A Poll by Pew Research Center found that nearly half (46%) of Republican parents believe that students should not learn about gender identity in school, compared to only 28% of Democratic parents.

Although relatively none of those surveyed believed that slavery should not be taught in schools, the way they wanted their children to be taught about slavery differed dramatically between Republican and Democratic parents.

As for Republicans, 66% of respondents said they would prefer their children be taught that “slavery is part of American history but does not affect the position of black people in American society today.”

On the other hand, 70% of Democratic parents said they want their children to be taught that the legacy of slavery still affects the status of black people in American society. Looking at all parents surveyed, 49% voted that slavery still had an impact today, compared to 42% who voted that it had no impact.

This is not the first time that censorship — specifically, the banning of books — has become a national issue. After Ronald Reagan was elected president in the 80s, there were extensive efforts to ban books that lasted for almost a decade. So with that in mind, we’re “very early in the cycle,” Finan says.

“I don’t think the issue is playing out either way,” Finan says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing about new school board directors — school board members across the country supporting and joining this campaign of censorship.”

Path to Academic Recovery

After several years of virtual training and devastating NAEP resultsacademic recovery is a major issue for candidates across the political spectrum.

“You have the potential for bipartisan progress on using resources for things like tutoring and summer learning initiatives, addressing the teacher shortage, so that’s encouraging,” King says. “Most places are looking to the future and asking what are we doing now to address the impact of COVID and address the underlying inequalities that COVID has exacerbated?”

The fight for LGBTQ rights

Although many things keep her up at night, Melanie Willingham-Jaggersexecutive director of GLSEN, says the turnout of Gen Z in this election has really given her hope — especially when it comes to schools being more inclusive and fostering spaces for LGBTQ+ people.

“This is the generation that took to the streets in the summer of 2020. There were not only children of color in that generation, it was the white children of that generation. It wasn’t just LGBTQ+ youth in that generation, it was queer and cisgender people in that generation standing up for and for each other,” says Willingham-Jaggers. “What’s wonderful about young people in general, and what’s especially sweet and wonderful about Gen Z, is that they empathize deeply and see the world as it is.”

But this is both a blessing and a curse. As young people—the largest, most multiracial, and most queer generation in history—find that their progressive voices have been heard, their opposition is trying to placate them and “make the world smaller for the kids who come after them,” Willingham says. Jaggers. .

It wasn’t just LGBTQ+ youth in that generation, it was queer and cisgender people in that generation standing up for and for each other.


“These young people are at the center of this fracture. We must fight for equality, education, truth and democracy,” says Willingham-Jaggers. “And they know it, and it’s a heavy backpack for them to carry.”

They still need to fight for inclusive curricula — for example, for the country’s true history, positive and accurate representations of the diverse communities in our society, including LGBTQ+ and people of color.

While the midterm elections turned out to be “rainbow wave“, there are still states like Georgia, Texas and Florida that continue to struggle and are at the center of our “deeply divided political climate.”

“It’s unfortunate because this opposition is really using LGBTQ+ people as an issue. They will continue to encroach on education and that is worrying,” says Willingham-Jaggers. “LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans and non-binary kids, continue to be exploited as political pawns, and it’s time to call it what it is and push back against these extremists.”

School climate safety

A generation of students who grew up participating in active shooter drills in schools are now old enough to vote.

“They know how broken our gun laws are in this country and how much change is needed,” King says. “Young people across the country, in poll after poll, show that they are very concerned about guns and believe deeply that we must do more for common sense gun reform.”

There was no accountability for elected officials who promoted essentially unregulated access to military weapons.


School safety was a top priority for voters on Oct. 6 High Point University Survey, which surveys adults in North Carolina. It topped the list, with 74% of respondents saying it was “very important,” with general education and inflation coming in second at 73%.

But it was not universal. In Texas, where Earlier this year, 19 students and two teachers were killed in a shooting“there was no accountability for elected officials promoting essentially unregulated access to firearms,” ​​King says.

Still, especially given the strong turnout among young voters, King hopes this election is proof that “politicians across the political spectrum will realize that if they want to appeal to people, they have to have a smarter gun-healthy message.” the meaning of the reform”.

A big win for arts and music funding

California’s Proposition 28, which will pumping out about $1 billion each year in music and art education, passed by a wide margin with 61.5% of the vote.

It’s the first bill of its kind and it’s “the biggest investment in the arts that’s ever happened in this country,” says Robert Manwaringsenior policy and tax advisor for the California organization Children nowwho also helped with the bill’s language.

“It’s really interesting because there are stark differences in who has access to the arts and who doesn’t in different schools and areas of the state,” Manwaring says.

Both in California and across the country, art education is more accessible to white and affluent neighborhoods. In his own Report on the state of national art education for 2019The Arts Data Project found that 7% of predominantly black schools lacked access to arts education, compared to 3% of predominantly white schools and 2% of predominantly Asian schools.

And schools with high levels of free or reduced lunch eligibility were twice as likely to have no access to arts education compared to schools with low levels of eligibility.

Most of the funds will go toward hiring music and art teachers, with about a third earmarked for high-enrollment, low-income schools.

Now the task of the state is to find out how to do it recruit teachers for these new jobs, whether through expanding training programs or finding other qualified people in the arts to pursue teacher certification.

“The funding is there, but the art teachers aren’t there yet,” Manwaring says. “There’s going to be some serious work to fill all those spots.”

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