I live in New York state. Here we are allowed to vote in school elections. The only districts exempt from these laws are those known as The Big 5 – those districts in the five largest cities in the state. I believe the Big 5 still vote for board of education members but not on budget. These elections are for members of the board of education in the school district one lives in and a yes or no vote on the school budget. The state regulates these elections heavily and all of them are held on the third Tuesday of May.
Last night, I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with the local newspaper’s education reporter. The topic of discussion was voting in school elections. In a year when elections are all the buzz, there is anticipation that turnout in these elections will increase. Generally speaking, in the school district I live in, the election turnout does not even equal the total number of students enrolled in the school. This number is not near the total number of eligible voters. I believe, in my district, the average turnout is about 1,500 and the total number of eligible voters is 15,000. This is well below the turnout for municipal, state or federal elections.
The lack of turnout may be a good thing. The beginning of May brought about a budget hearing for my district. Someone spends a lot of time putting together information to present to the public regarding the budget that is about to be voted on later in the month. The state requires that each district hold a hearing. At this particular hearing, in attendance were four school district employees – all administrative or district office employees, two Board of Education members – including one who is running for re-election and approximately six people. Questions were asked but not many.
My point is that we have very few elections where our vote is a true impact. Please educate yourself and get out on May 20th and vote!!