No. 943



You may have heard the song made popular by Mickey Gilley titled, “I Overlooked an Orchid (While Searching for a Rose).” This is exactly what happened to me just before I started to write this column. When something comes across my desk that relates to education, it usually gets my attention. Sometime back I had some correspondence from Leslie Graves, founder and president of the Lucy Burns Institute, regarding the importance of school board elections. Based on what she had to say, I decided to share it with you. What I learned while doing some research was truly amazing.
In 2006, Leslie founded the Lucy Burns Institute, which covers all 507,000 elected offices in the United States. This is accomplished through two different websites, and I noted there are more than 60 full-time employees in this organization, which tells you they are very comprehensive. Ballotpedia is an interactive almanac of politics (non-partisan), with the goal to cultivate a strong democracy and thriving citizenship by building up and providing information about elections and candidates at all levels of government. Judgepedia has the same basic objectives that are related to judges and courts in our nation.
Their latest initiative is titled, “School Board Election Project,” and this is what I started out in the beginning to share with you. This organization’s coverage is vast, and their researchers often uncover information gaps in political news coverage and areas of elections and policy information. One such gap is a significant lack of information on local school board elections. Currently, it is difficult to find even the most basic information about school boards, such as the names of board members; when and where school board elections are held; the process to get on the ballot; and who is running and what do they think about the issues facing their districts.
There are more than 13,000 school districts nationwide. Collectively they spend more than $700 billion annually. That’s a significant number, and the goal of this organization is to provide voters accessible information on who runs local school boards and how they can participate in these elections that play an important role in educating our nation’s children. I believe you will agree that the best voter is an informed voter. This organization seeks to fill the information gap and expand their coverage to include school boards across the country.
After learning more about this fantastic organization, I began to click around on their website. Quite naturally, like looking for our own face in a group photo, I went to our local community of Conway, Arkansas, to see what information was here. You can do the same thing in your community.
This was easily accomplished by clicking the link to my home state on the large national map on the Ballotpedia home page, and then navigating the links to all the areas I wanted to see. Conway is the eighth largest school district in the state, with 9,432 students, a budget of $190.2 million and Susan McNabb is president of the school board. Also listed are names of the other school board members, when their terms end and the dates for future school board elections, plus tons of other information. Information for the top 1,000 districts in the nation, in terms of enrollment, can all be found here. It’s a great resource, and I hope you will visit it soon.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)