No, parent participation in school council elections isn’t like voter participation in the last governor’s race
More evidence that Kentucky needs to improve the current school council program and offer parents something else – say school choice – that might really get them interested
I just got challenged by a local school board and former school council member regarding the VERY low participation of parents in elections for school council members in Kentucky.
The board person offered a very apples to oranges comparison to the last state governor’s election statistics, but this got me wondering how voter participation in the 2015 Kentucky Governor’s election actually does compare to the latest data on parents voting in school council elections.
So, I pulled the information in the table below together to see how this looks.
The first column of data covers statistics from the 2015 Kentucky Governor’s Race. According to information from the Kentucky Secretary of State, there were 3,201,847 registered voters that year (See Page 1 in this report).
Also reported by the Kentucky Secretary of State, a total of 973,692 votes were cast in that governor’s election (Computed from the total of all votes cast for each gubernatorial candidate as found on Page 6 in this report).
Dividing the number of votes cast by the total number of registered voters indicates a turnout of 30.4 percent occurred for Kentucky’s 2015 gubernatorial election.
Now look at the second column of data, which deals with the school council elections for the 2017-18 school year.
There isn’t any information available on the total number of parents/eligible guardians with students in Kentucky’s public school system. So, for an approximation I elected to use the total school enrollment for the denominator of this calculation. That number, 624,522 students, comes from a Kentucky Department of Education online report called “STUDENT_DEMOGRAPHIC_RACE_GENDER.” Keep in mind that in a number of cases students have more than one parent/guardian and, of course, some parents have more than one child in a school. So, the enrollment isn’t a perfect substitute, but it is the best available.
For the numerator of the school council equation, I accessed the entire number of parents voting statewide in all the school council elections from a special Excel spreadsheet I had to request from the Kentucky Department of Education. This will eventually be added to the new school report cards data sets but that is still a work in progress. In any event, the spreadsheet the department provided shows that in the 2017-18 school term a total of 45,739 parents voted in the parent representative elections statewide.
Dividing the number of parents voting in council elections by the state’s student enrollment indicates that overall across the state the ratio of parents voting to enrollment was only 7.3 percent.
Thus, the voter participation in the governor’s election was more than four times greater than the somewhat similar percentage from the school council elections.
In the end, this is just more evidence that parents in general across Kentucky just are not involved with school councils. And, the level of that parent disinterest is clearly MUCH deeper than the voter interest in the last Kentucky governor’s race.
So, it sure would be nice if the Kentucky House would start to move Senate Bill 3, which proposes to insert more rationality into the school council situation. Because one of the big arguments for school councils – namely that they improve parent involvement in schools – clearly is just not true.
This is also more evidence that Kentucky should institute some real parent choice in where their kids go to school. That shows more promise of getting more parents involved than the dismal 7.3 percent involvement school councils are generating.