WFU professor explains why education is hot topic in NC elections

Local school board races are in the spotlight this year

Classroom

With more than 1.4 million students enrolled in North Carolina’s public schools, education issues are always a factor in elections.

But this year, learning loss in the wake of the pandemic, conflicts over curriculum and greater awareness of the power of school boards are putting education front and center for voters, said Dani Parker Moore, an assistant professor of multicultural education and director of the Schools, Education and Society minor at Wake Forest University.

She says many voters are paying particular attention to local school board races. From large social media campaigns to funding from Political Action Committees or PACs, these races are being amplified across the country and in North Carolina.

Parker Moore’s research addresses educational inequities and opportunities for social action through qualitative research and analysis. Her current work examines the experiences and challenges that essential workers and parents/caregivers faced while facilitating online learning during the pandemic.

What are the key education issues voters care most about in the 2022 midterm election? 

People are really concerned with COVID learning loss. They are really concerned with where their kids are at right now and feeling like their kids are behind from that time. The other part of this big conversation, not only in North Carolina but nationally, is that a lot of educators are leaving the teaching force. People are nervous about teaching conditions and teacher pay. A lot of these school districts are severely understaffed, and it’s not just teachers, but at all levels, including bus drivers, custodians and teacher assistants.”

Why are school board races in the spotlight?

“Curriculum and how parents feel about certain issues are concerns from some voters. This includes heated debates over schools’ role in teaching students about gender, sexuality, and race. The term critical race theory is being used in some campaigns.  In the past, school board races have often been overlooked, but that has shifted in recent years. In some North Carolina districts several or all school board seats are up for grabs. It’s basically coming down to what those partisan kinds of talking points are, and what those values are of those candidates.” 

Why do school board elections matter?

“School board elections are really important because if you look in the North Carolina general statute of what school boards do, they do a lot. They pick superintendents. Their main goal is that there’s an opportunity for a fair and basic sound education for every child, but when you get down to it, they have budgetary control, decide what’s funded or not, create district policies –  even have a hand in what books are in schools. There is a line in the general statute that talks about if they don’t choose the state adopted textbook, they can pick a different textbook. They can really sway the direction of the district.”

Early voting in North Carolina runs through Saturday, November 5. The 2022 general election will be held on Tuesday, November 8.

Media Note: Wake Forest University Education Professor Dani Parker Moore is available for comment during this year’s general election. Contact Keri Brown, 336-758-4442 or C: 336-971-5402 or media@nullwfu.edu.

Categories: Top Stories