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Stay Informed

Vote School Board First Campaign: the Effort and the Success

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By Anh Nguyen

On May 16, 2017, Pittsburgh residents voted in the primary elections for school board races in districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Voter turnout was lower than expected. However, even with low turnout, something changed.

Voters were more informed on issues facing Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and their performance, and the importance of the role of PPS School Board as they cast ballots for the school board. Having well-informed voters was the biggest goal of the Vote School Board First campaign organized by a coalition of community-based organization and partners, including A+ Schools.

Since 2009, A+ Schools has been conducting polls and research to keep track of the actions of PPS school board. Despite the crucial roles of school board members, only 1 in 5 registered voters casts ballots for school board in off-year primary elections. This statistic is alarming as school board members are responsible for enacting policies that govern the district. These policies directly affect the performance of public schools and can either help to improve inequities and close opportunity gaps within our schools or worsen the situation. Understanding the importance of school board positions, the Vote School Board First coalition took the initiative to educate and prepare voters for the school board elections.

The strategy for the campaign was simple: Research and Communication. The Coalition and their dedicated volunteers did research and outreach to the community. The information was then communicated to voters through many different channels, including: door-to-door canvassing, candidate guides for each school board district that included responses to questions from each candidate, as well as a forum that allowed the public to hear directly from all eight candidates who were seeking office. The full report on the result of the Vote School Board First campaign can be found here. Below are some of the campaign highlights:

  • 56 volunteers and staff members were out on Election Day covering 61 polling places.
  • There was less than a 5 percent gap between those who showed up to the polls and those who voted for school board on Election Day.
  • 16 media stories about the Vote School Board First Coalition in radio, print, and TV.
  • Over 10,000 people received candidate guides from the coalition.
  • The website received over 2,000 hits.
  • Over 100 people attended the candidate forum, with 700 people watching some portion of it the night of the event via Facebook Live (the audio of the forum was later translated into Spanish to reach more audiences and voters).

The Vote School Board First campaign aligns with A+ Schools’ mission: to make changes by serving as a resource and catalyst for change, collecting and distributing critical information and providing specific ways for the community to help make our schools great. The success of the campaign leads us closer to a greater Pittsburgh Public Schools system.

The Vote School Board First campaign kicked off on March 23, 2017 and concluded on Primary Election Day, May 16, 2017. However, the work of the coalition continues as we continue to educate voters in Pittsburgh about the importance of the school board and the role that the public has in holding the school board accountable to the students, families, educators and tax-payers of the city of Pittsburgh.

We would like to thank all of the volunteers and coalition partners who made the Vote School Board First campaign a success. We would also like to thank all of the voters who knew they can directly bring positive changes to PPS and decided to do so on Primary Election Day.

The Vote School Board First Coalition was comprised of A+ Schools, Amachi Pittsburgh, Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Lawrenceville United and PEP Rally, League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh Inc., Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC), The Pittsburgh Project, The Pittsburgh Promise, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and Vibrant Pittsburgh.

Anh Nguyen is an intern at A+ Schools. She is a junior at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Anh is a double major in Marketing and Economics