The special election for Ward 4 Member of the State Board of Education on Tuesday, December 4th, talked about in the press and played out on the street corners and farmers’ markets around the area, ended with a small voter turnout and a win for Petworth local Frazier O’Leary.
In Ward 4, only 8.47% of registered voters bothered to come out to vote (including absentee voters). Total votes cast were 5,403 out of a possible 63,817 residents.
Of those who voted, 45.53% cast their ballot for Frazier O’Leary, with Rhonda Henderson receiving 37.73% of the vote. Elani Lawrence and Ryan Tauriainen received 10.81% and 5.62% respectively.
While a smaller turnout is not surprising for a special election held a month after the larger general election in November, it is a radically small number of people who cast a vote for a position that helps guide education policy in the District.
The DC State Board of Education (SBOE), in its present form, was created in 2007 as an advisory board for the District’s Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE). The SBOE offers guidance on academic and graduation standards, teacher qualifications and more to OSSE, and has approval authority over “statewide” education regulations like accountability frameworks, school report cards, attendance, residency, graduation requirements and teacher preparation programs. (The history of the school board has been and remains quite tumultuous and political — this Wikipedia article provides a good synopsis.)
At the moment, two of the most talked about issues facing the education system in DC is Mayoral control over system, and the new Star Rating system being rolled out. The new rating system is supposed to offer transparency to the performance of schools across the District, including both public and charter schools. (You can look up schools on DC’s new School Report Card website.)