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State-Level Midterm Election Results Will Have Long Lasting Impact on Education Policy

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2018

Contact: Renee Rybak Lang,, 703-740-4841

State-Level Midterm Election Results Will Have Long Lasting Impact on Education Policy

Alexandria, VA—Although federal election results have attracted the most post-election commentary, state-level changes will have the longest lasting impact on education policy, according to a new NASBE analysis of the 2018 midterms. The election of 20 new governors, 12 of whom are expected to appoint dozens of new board members early in their terms, 21 newly elected state board of education members, and two newly elected state education chiefs portends significant shifts in the makeup of state boards and the policies they will adopt over the next two years.

In total, across eight states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands, 49 state board seats were up for election, with slightly over half of incumbents being reelected. In Michigan, the election of two Democrats shifts control of the state board. In Utah, four of the five incumbents who ran were reelected. This is in sharp contrast to 2016 results, when Utah voters defeated all five incumbents in primaries and in the general election. Kansas, Ohio, and Texas each elected at least three new members to their state boards.

Thirty-six state and three territorial governors were on the ballot in 2018. Twelve of the new governors will appoint most or all members of their state boards. Given the staggered terms of many boards, the impact of these appointments may not be immediate, but there are some states to watch in coming months. The terms of five of nine members of Illinois’s board, including its chair, expire in 2019. California’s governor, state chief, and state board president are all new. And two governors have particular education policy credentials: Wisconsin’s new governor was previously its state chief, and the new governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, is a former state board member.

Five state education chiefs were reelected. Races in Arizona and California are still to be determined. Arizona’s incumbent was defeated in the Republican primary, so the state will have a new chief state school officer regardless.   

As in past years, education funding was a strong theme on statewide ballot measures, with voters deciding a number of statewide funding proposals. In South Carolina, voters soundly defeated a constitutional amendment changing the state superintendent from an elected to governor-appointed position, despite the support of current and previous state chiefs. And in Arizona, a proposition to allow an increase in the number of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts was defeated.

Authors of the NASBE analysis highlight issues that are expected to top state board agendas in the coming year: school finance, state ESSA plan revisions, and career technical education and early childhood education, which tend to garner bipartisan support.

“State boards are the stable center of education policymaking,” write NASBE’s Kris Amundson, Abigail Potts, and Joseph Hedger. “By and large, state boards are a place where people check their partisan hats at the door and settle in to do the hard work of creating policies that will benefit every child.” State boards, working alongside new governors, legislators, and chiefs, will be well advised to continue that civil dialogue in the months and years to come.

Read and share “The Impact of the 2018 Elections on State Boards of Education.”

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at


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