A new study by scholars at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Boston College finds that voters are likely to punish elected school board members when the academic achievement of White students in their district is not up to expectations. But they found no similar electoral punishment for school board members in districts where African American and Hispanics students are not achieving success.
The authors looked at 1,500 school board member elections in California between 2004 and 2013. The results showed that the reelection of incumbent school board members was correlated with White student achievement in the school district. The effect was less for Hispanic student achievement and nonexistent as related to Black student achievement.
Patrick Flavin, associate professor of political science at Baylor University and the lead author of the study, stated that “public education represents the largest investment in equal opportunity and social mobility in the United States. But we find little evidence that African-American or Hispanic student achievement has much influence on reelection prospects of incumbent school board members.”
The authors conclude that “the study ultimately calls into question whether voter control of public school governance is a viable avenue to correct racial inequality in education that can have important and enduring effects on democratic citizenship and political equality.”
The study, “Racial Inequality in Democratic Accountability: Evidence from Retrospective Voting in Local Elections,” was published in the American Journal of Political Science. It may be accessed here.