Outside Money in School Board Elections

Outside Money in School Board Elections The Nationalization of Education Politics

Jeffrey R. Henig, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Sarah Reckhow
paper, 240 Pages
Pub. Date: March 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-282-9
Price: $35.00

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2020 Dennis Judd Best Book Award, American Political Science Association

Outside Money in School Board Elections documents and analyzes the injection of external funding into local elections. Local school board contests have recently become flashpoints of national donor interest. Some observers see this engagement as a needed boost for complacent school districts while others view it as a threat to local democracy.


Readers can follow the campaign money to discover how new national political actors influence school board elections all over the US. But different local contexts create different local outcomes. This book unearths new insights about the complex external political web confronting local school reform politics. — Michael Kirst, professor emeritus, Stanford, and president, California State Board of Education

‘Follow the money’ proved to be a smart research strategy for Watergate. Henig, Jacobsen, and Reckhow put it to superb use in their study of outside money in school board elections. With great skill this rich study shows that, while external funding is important, it does not totally supplant local political agency. The authors make a strong case that nationalization in education politics is a major trend to follow in all its nuances.
— Clarence N. Stone, research professor of political science and public policy, George Washington University

The education reform fervor that inspired elite donors to shell out hundreds of millions also stirred equally intense criticisms about their influence on local politics. Outside Money in School Board Elections will throw a cold glass of reality in the faces of donors and their critics, having everyone rethink the best way to win over local school boards. — Andre Perry, fellow, The Brookings Institution

This important book by Henig, Jacobsen, and Reckhow helps us to begin to understand the causes and implications of outside money in school board elections and provides a foundation for further research and analysis. — Domingo Morel, Perspectives on Politics

This volume addresses a previously underexplored component of our democracy: the increased impact of national issues on local campaigns focused on education. Informed by data and rigorous methodology, authors Henig (Columbia Univ.), Jacobsen (Michigan State Univ.), and Reckhow (Michigan State Univ.) investigate the influence of money on these elections from within and outside the community, as well as the role played by teacher and other employee unions. — Choice

As the first large-scale assessment of the monetary flows, identities, and political allegiances surrounding school board elections, the authors offer a comprehensive analysis and we encourage future research to take up race in the nationalization of education politics from a critical perspective. — Teachers College Record

[Outside Money in School Board Elections'] findings are stark and its message is very compelling. It will be and should be of interest to political scientists and education policy analysts but also to local politicians and officials and to parents. — Education Review

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About the Authors

Jeffrey R. Henig (PhD, Northwestern University) is a professor of political science and education at Teachers College, and professor of political science at Columbia University. Among his books related to education politics are Rethinking School Choice: Limits of the Market Metaphor; The Color of School Reform: Race, Politics, and the Challenge of Urban Education (named by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association as the “Best book written on urban politics” in 1999); Building Civic Capacity: The Politics of Reforming Urban Schools (named by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association as the “best book written on urban politics” in 2001); and Spin Cycle: How Research Is Used in Policy Debates (winner of the 2010 American Educational Research Association “Outstanding Book” award). Other books, also published by Harvard Education Press, include Between Public and Private (with Katrina Bulkley and Henry M. Levin); The End of Exceptionalism in American Education; and The New Education Philanthropy (with Frederick M. Hess).

Rebecca Jacobsen (PhD, Teachers College, Columbia University) is an associate professor of education politics and policy in the College of Education at Michigan State University. Her research examines how policies shape opportunities for and barriers to civic and political engagement with the public education system. Drawing from the fields of political science, public policy, and performance management, Jacobsen’s work focuses on ways to strengthen public commitment to public education. She has written extensively about the politics of accountability policies, local school politics, and whether and how schools prepare the next generation of citizens for active engagement in the democratic process. Her work has been published in a number of journals, including Teachers College Record, American Educational Research Journal, American Journal of Education, and Urban Affairs Review. Prior to graduate school, Rebecca taught elementary and middle school in the New York City public schools and was a member of Teach For America. Follow her @Rebec_Jacobsen.

Sarah Reckhow (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is an associate professor of political science at Michigan State University. Her research areas include urban politics, education policy, and nonprofits and philanthropy. Her awarding-winning book with Oxford University Press, Follow the Money: How Foundation Dollars Change Public School Politics, examines the role of major foundations, such as the Gates Foundation, in urban school reform. Her recent work has been published in Journal of Urban Affairs, Policy Studies Journal, Urban Affairs Review, and Educational Researcher. Prior to graduate school, Sarah taught high school in the Baltimore City Public Schools and was a member of Teach For America.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Education Politics and Policy Series

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The Middle of Somewhere

Edited by Sara L. Hartman and Bob Klein

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Trans Studies in K–12 Education

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STEM Education Reform in Urban High Schools

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