With Historically Low School Board Election Turnouts, DMPS Candidates Campaign for Change

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls for school board elections. While candidates are vying for votes, turnout for school board elections is historically low.

According to the Polk County elections office, in 2015 only 12,000 Polk County residents voted in the election. The report shows just under 5,000 of voters were from Des Moines. Candidates running for the Des Moines school board says it’s time for people to realize local elections are just as important as federal elections.

“I know that how our young people are coming out of our schools is going to determine our work force, our future citizens, how engaged they are,” says incumbent candidate Dionna Langford. “It’s something we all should be caring about, so this is an opportunity to say we have to vote.”

Starting in 2019, school board elections will be held the same day as city council elections. School board members say that should increase voter turnout.

Aside from voter turnout, candidates say there are other challenges they could face if elected. At-large candidate Louisa Dykstra says school funding will continue to be an issue.

“Schools have had to slowly squeeze budgets for the last eight years in a row. Schools are running really trim right now,” she says.

Last legislative session, lawmakers agreed to increase per student funding by one percent, a percentage that is normally much higher.

Dykstra adds focusing on issues collectively instead of narrowing in on one will better meet the needs of students and families within the district.

“I think instead of standing firm for one specific idea, we need to look at the bigger picture and say we don’t have a society or economy without public schools, so how do we make them really good.”

For a list of school board candidates, click here. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.