Why the 2018 Elections Matter for Education

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This November, states across the country will be holding elections to decide key political leadership roles. Every state has the potential to see new faces around the public policy table in 2019 — from the 36 states with governors races to the 87 legislative chambers with general elections. Changes in state political leadership influence how the entire public policy system operates in a state and which issues take public priority. As education is a top issue among candidates and many voters, the outcomes of this year’s elections have the potential to create a big impact on education systems in states.

2018 elections and changes in state education leadershipWe’re tracking the elections closely to keep you in the loop on what these changes mean. Below, we’ve broken down how the upcoming elections can impact important state education leadership roles. Also, check out our new interactive map to learn more about the types of elections going on in each state and which education leaders will be affected by the outcomes in November.

In particular, governors races signal big potential changes: Of the 36 states with governors races, 17 are guaranteed to have a new governor because of term limits, an incumbent deciding not to run for re-election or an incumbent losing the primary election. Though governors’ roles and powers change from state to state, they often set the political tone and determine which issues will be priorities. Governors are also influential in their ability to appoint key education leadership roles in states. For instance, 12 of the states with governors races are states in which the governor appoints the chief state school officer. Here is the complete breakdown of which state education leaders could change after the election in November:

  • Governors. In November, 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, have governors races. Of those 36, 17 states are guaranteed to have a new governor because the incumbent governor is term-limited, not running for re-election or lost in the primary.
  • Governor-Appointed State Education Chiefs. State education chiefs are appointed in 12 of the 36 states with gubernatorial elections. Of those 12, six states are guaranteed to have a new governor and therefore, likely to have a new chief state school officer.
  • Elected State Education Chiefs. Seven states have elections for chief state school officers.
  • State Higher Education Officers. Seven states with governors races this year could also see a change in the appointed state higher education executive officers, with five of those states guaranteed to have a new governor and possibly a new executive.
  • State Board of Education Members. State board of education members are appointed by the governor in 25 states with governors races this year. Of those, 12 states are guaranteed to have a new governor and therefore, likely new state board of education members. Additionally, eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have elections for state board of education members.
  • State Legislatures. Of the 99 legislative chambers across the country (Nebraska is unicameral), 87 will be holding elections.
Author profile
State Relations Strategist at Education Commission of the States | lfreemire@ecs.org

Lauren supports the state relations team in cultivating relationships and building partnerships with all Education Commission of the States Commissioners. She is the liaison for Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Lauren worked on public policy and government relations with Save the Children Action Network in Colorado, Clayton Early Learning, National Conference of State Legislatures and with several members of the legislative and executive branches in Colorado. Lauren is dedicated to helping policymakers across the states connect and collaborate to improve education systems for all students.

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