Ohio sees number of school board candidates rise, campaign donations

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Data: Ohio School Boards Association; Graphic: Thomas Oide / Axios

Politicized issues peripheral to education have become dividing lines in Ohio schools, sparking an increase in the number of local school board candidates and a massive influx of campaign donations.

Why is this important: School boards are responsible for developing policies, adopting curricula, setting budgets and hiring superintendents. While candidates can run for any reason, their four-year tenure will not be all about burning issues.

  • Ohio School Board elections are held every two years, with half of the members running for re-election, and the candidates are non-partisan.

In numbers : In Franklin County, 104 candidates are running on Tuesday, well above any total in the past decade.

  • Campaign contributions are also on the rise in this cycle, according to an Axios review of Franklin County Electoral Board data.
  • Applicants in 2021 received a collective total of $ 565,800 through the last deposits in October, up from $ 210,400 during the same period in 2019.

What they say : Rick Lewis, executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, told Axios he’s never seen such tense races in his 37 years with the organization.

  • “These are very polarizing issues and there is not a lot of ground for compromise, which we have already seen spilling over in school board meetings,” Lewis said. “What we cannot lose sight of, meanwhile, is what schools are for – and they are more important than any of these issues.”

To note : Local campaign funding figures do not include every dollar raised. Outlying districts that overlap with counties, such as Pickerington and Olentangy, have candidates who report to other county electoral boards.

  • In addition, applicants only have to report if they reach a threshold of $ 2,000.

The plot: “Black money,” or political spending aimed at influencing voters through unknown and undisclosed sources, is also a concern, as well as threats.


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