By: Sharon Aron Baron
Many Broward County Public School teachers are vocal about raises and want someone to represent their best interest on the school board. When it comes down to actually voting, a large amount of teachers fail to show up at the polls unless it is a November election. Problem is, by that time, many school board elections have already been decided.
Data Analyst Andrew Ladanowski matched public records of approximately 15,000 Broward school teachers along with voting records and discovered that during Broward County’s previous three August elections – when most school board elections and primaries occur, few teachers are heading to the polls. For instance, in August 2010, only 23.2 percent of Broward County teachers voted in a race where there were six contested seats including one countywide. This number went up to 68 percent in November during the gubernatorial and senate race, which meant many of them didn’t cast their vote for the school board seats which had already been decided in the August primary.
In 2012, approximately 18.2 percent of Broward County teachers voted in August where six board seats, including two countywide, were on the ballot. Since it was a presidential election, 91 percent of Broward County teachers showed up at the polls to vote in November. However, the district three race was still decided in August with Katie Leach getting 59 percent of the votes.
“Even with two countywide races in 2012, it had no impact on teacher’s votes in the primary,” said Ladanowski.
In 2014, only 18 percent of teachers voted in the August primary. This meant that 82 percent of Broward County teachers did not vote. There were four school board members seats on the ballot including candidate Bob Mayersohn who was endorsed by Broward Teacher’s Union. He lost to Abby Freedman by only 651 votes in the District 4 race. There were no school board elections in November of 2014.
Here’s a breakdown of August 2014 by school board district and percentage of teachers who lived in that district who voted:
District 1 Hollywood/Hallandale area – 20 percent
District 2 Davie/Miramar/Pembroke Pines – 14.4 percent
District 3 Fort Lauderdale area – 20.3 percent
District 4 Parkland/Coral Springs/Tamarac – 19.4 percent
District 5 Plantation/Sunrise/Lauderdale Lakes/Lauderhill – 23.9
District 6 Weston/Sunrise/Davie – 13.6 percent
District 7 Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach/Margate – 18.5 percent
For the past three August primaries, an average of 19 percent of all Broward County teachers voted. Again, this is when most school board elections take place.
“Oh my God,” said Anna Fusco President-Elect of the Broward Teacher’s Union. She believed the numbers were low, but never had an exact figure. “The only thing I can figure – not that it’s an excuse, but we are actually working that day.”
Since the Supervisor of Elections allows absentee voting or a couple weeks of early voting including weekends, teachers do not necessarily have to vote the day of the election.”
But Fusco was concerned by the low turnout among teachers and what she could do as president to change it. Voting is in their teaching curriculum she said, so it didn’t make sense why teachers didn’t get out and vote. By not voting, it showed that they didn’t have a strong political presence in the district or with the union.
“We really need to work on getting the word out, getting people engaged, getting teachers engaged – whether they’re members or non-members, the importance of voting before it’s too late, when things start happening.”
Unfortunately, Fusco, whose term doesn’t start until July 1, cannot implement changes until then, which gives her little time before the next election for three school board members which will take place on August 30, 2016.
“With our negotiation impasse, people are complaining that our ‘leading ladies’ are allowing our superintendent with their negotiators to take advantage of us. Well there’s one of the reasons: they didn’t get out there and vote.”
Join BTU President-Elect Anna Fusco in a new Facebook Page until her term starts July 1.