Education Chiefs, Ballot Initiatives and Governors Races and their Impact on Arts Education

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yesterday, American voters turned out to the polls to vote for federal, state and local candidates and ballot measures. With many headlines focusing on control of the U.S. Senate or trends of state legislature leadership, arts education was central to several races throughout the country.

State Superintendent of Education

In the United States, there are 13 states which publicly elect their state education chief. In 2014, seven of the thirteen were up for election. The results are below:

In the California’s nonpartisan race for Superintendent of Public Instruction (which was the highest funded statewide 2014 race)., incumbent Tom Torlakson defeated Marshall Tucker and will continue to work with Governor Brown and the State Board of Education on California’s signature local control funding structure. (Learn more about funding arts education through LCAP here).

In Oklahoma, the incumbent lost her primary in June to Republican Joy Hoffmeister who also defeated Democratic challenger John Cox yesterday.  Hoffmeister ran on a platform focused on teacher pay and benefits to recruit quality educators within the state.  The Superintendent-elect was in attendance at Oklahoma Arts Council’s statewide Arts Education Forum last month.

In South Carolina, Republican Molly Spearman—a former music teacher for 18 years and current director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators—will be the new Superintendent of Education.

Several races remain to be seen regarding their impact on arts education explicitly: Richard Woods defeated Valarie Wilson in Georgia;  Sherri Ybarra narrowly defeated former Dept of Ed #2 Jana Jones in Idaho; and  Jillian Balow defeated Mike Ceballos on an anti-Common Core platform in Wyoming.

At this time, one race remains too close to call:  Arizona, Diane Douglas v. David Garcia.

Ballot Initiatives

In addition, there were a few local ballot initiatives focused on arts education funding. In Scottsdale, Arizona, the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) asked voters to approve a maintenance and operations override, which would place an estimated $0.41 tax rate per $100 of assessed valuation used for secondary property taxes in order to raise $18.8 million for the school district. In 2012, the same override was placed before Scottsdale voters and failed. Over the past two years, the school district has had to increase class sizes, reassign or lay off teachers and assistant principals at many schools, and slash arts education for elementary school students. Due to a successful campaign led by Yes To Children, the override passed! The school district stated it would use the override funds to decrease classroom sizes and restore art, music, and physical-education classes for elementary school students.

Palm Beach County voters in Florida were asked to allow the Palm Beach County School Board to renew an expiring property tax of $25 per $100,000 of appraised value. The levy funds would raise $36 million in the first year alone and pay for more than 500 arts, music, physical education, and choice and magnet program teachers in more than 120 schools. The ballot question was approved with 314,118 votes to 83,099 votes.

In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Charlotte), residents voted against a quarter cent sales tax increase, which would have directed 7.5 percent of the quarter cent to the Arts & Science Council.  The initiative lost with only receiving 39% of the vote.

Gubernatorial Races

In Michigan, Republican incumbent Rick Snyder was reelected as Governor by a four percent margin. Governor Snyder is a supporter of the arts and arts education after receiving the 2014 winner of the Public Leadership in the Arts Award. During his first term, he has increased the state arts agency’s budget from $2.56 to $8.15 million and has looked to the creative sector to help stimulate Michigan’s economy.

In Connecticut, former Stamford Mayor and pro-arts Governor Dan Malloy (his wife, Cathy is the head of the Greater Hartford Arts Council) narrowly defeated Republican Tom Foley.

For a more thorough analysis on the 2014 elections full impact on the arts, read our Goverment Affairs staff weigh in on ARTSBlog. Also, tune in for our complimentary webinar on November 20 at 3:00 pm EST with Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund staff as we discuss how the federal, state, and local elections- including ballot initiatives- will impact the arts and arts education in America. Click here to register.