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Uncontested: electoral competition in American school board elections

Michael Ford (Department of Public Administration, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA)
Douglas Ihrke (Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 5 May 2020

Issue publication date: 31 October 2020




The purpose of this research was to determine the extent to which American school board members faced electoral competition, as well as the factors influencing the likelihood of competition.


The authors utilized original national survey data of American school board members linked with school district demographic data obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics. Several hypotheses were tested using three state-level fixed-effects logistic regression models predicting electoral competition.


The authors found that 39.6% of American school board members reported not having an opponent in their most recent election. School board members serving larger urban school districts with higher percentages of special needs students and racial minorities were more likely to have faced electoral competition.


The authors highlighted potential flaws in the traditional model of local democratic governance and helped expand understanding of the dissatisfaction theory of American democracy and continuous participation theory. The authors concluded with several suggestions on how the results can be used to inform future local governance reforms that increase electoral competition and/or create more effective governance models.



Ford, M. and Ihrke, D. (2020), "Uncontested: electoral competition in American school board elections", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 58 No. 6, pp. 661-675.



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