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Kansas City-area schools want higher voter turnout for board elections

johnson county school board election nov 2 2021
Posted at 7:10 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 20:10:31-04

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — The upcoming general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Along with the mayoral and city council races, the school board seats up for grabs are getting more attention than years past.

School board candidates are typically voted to serve a four-year term. They make important decisions on budget, curriculum and district policies. All of this directly impacts the learning environment for both students and teachers.

“I think the time in education where parents can sit back and just assume that everything is going to be taken care of are gone,” Spring Hill Education Association President Georann Whitman said.

Whitman said she wants parents to get involved in this year’s election. She encouraged families to do the research and vote.

“Make sure that your candidate knows what the role of a school board member is and the responsibilities that come with it. Not just someone running their own agenda,” Whitman said.

Off-year elections often lead to low voter turnout, but Whitman said you should not sit out on local elections — especially when it comes to children's education. The pandemic has added a sense of urgency as well.

“Your local leaders, your local officials are the ones that are making the decisions that hit you close to home,” Whitman said. “Times are crazy, people are polarized on different issues.”

Jason Anderson is a single father of a fifth grader. He moved into the Blue Valley School District after seeing glowing reviews. He wants to keep it that way.

“If you get the wrong candidates in place — and there's a real strong risk of that happening this year — it can cause decades worth of damage,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he is worried national politics has flowed into the education system. Topics such as mask mandates, vaccines and critical race theory have led to heated conversations in school board rooms across the nation. Anderson and Whitman both said the best solution is getting as many local voters to the polls as possible.

“It’s supposed to be a local representation of the families in the school district and how we want our children to be educated in the schools,” Anderson said.

“When you have low voter turnout in any election, the people that show up are the ones that have their agenda to go, right? And it might not necessarily be representative of the whole,” Whitman said.

A list of polling places is available on the Johnson County Election Office website.