Election Day is here. These are the education issues and races we’re watching.

Poll worker Wardell Chambers tears stickers Tuesday, March 3, 2020, while voting at Pine Hills Community Center in Memphis. (Max Gersh / The Commercial Appeal)

As Americans cast their ballots, we’re watching to see how the results will affect schools in individual communities and across the country. 

Chalkbeat reporters in Detroit and Indianapolis will be monitoring school board races that could decide the course of local school improvement efforts. In Colorado, a ballot measure will determine whether schools take a big budget hit next year. And in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, legislative races could send important signals about education policy. 

Of course, we’re watching the national results too. President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden offer very different visions for education, while the specifics of any additional financial coronavirus aid for schools depend on control of Congress. Hundreds of billions in federal money for schools may be at stake, with Biden and Congressional Democrats saying they want to send a huge infusion of money to schools and state governments while Trump and Congressional Republicans are less interested in plugging state budget gaps.  

Here are other reasons the national election results matter for schools — and, below, a rundown of the local races we’re watching.

In Indiana, we’ve got our eyes on a school board race that will shape the future of Indianapolis Public Schools. Four of seven seats are up for grabs in the state’s largest district, which is known for partnering with charter school organizations and nonprofit operators to run what are known as innovation schools. The candidates who back innovation schools had far out-raised their competitors by early last month. 

In Michigan, we’re watching the Detroit school board race, where three of seven seats are in play. The incumbents were elected in 2016 and have worked closely with Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, whose efforts to turn around the city’s long-struggling schools began in 2017. That makes these races something of a referendum on Vitti’s tenure. 

Also on the ballot: Two openings on the state’s board of education, and in Detroit’s Wayne County, the fate of a special fund that sends millions to local school districts for things like lowering class sizes, boosting teacher salaries, and buying technology. 

In Colorado, we’re watching a ballot measure that will help decide whether school districts will face big budget cuts next year. Voters are choosing whether to repeal an amendment that will require residential property taxes to fall sharply this year. At stake: nearly $500 million for schools. 

A proposed tax on nicotine, meanwhile, would provide the money needed for universal pre-K. And in Denver, voters will decide whether to approve two measures that would pay for things like air conditioning in schools and teacher pay raises.

Also on the ballot: Three seats on Colorado’s seven-member state board of education, which Democrats took control of in 2016 for the first time in 50 years, and three seats on the University of Colorado Board of Regents

In Pennsylvania, Democrats could take back control of the legislature and change how schools are funded. Pennsylvania’s entire House and half of the Senate are up for election. If Democrats win control of one or both chambers, they could make changes to a school funding formula that critics say sends too little to urban districts like Philadelphia. 

In Tennessee’s legislature, one question is whether fierce fights over private school vouchers will have bruised some Republican incumbents. The balance of political power in the Tennessee statehouse, where Republicans hold a supermajority, isn’t going to shift. But education is playing a role in individual races — most notably the one involving the chair of the House Education Committee, Republican Rep. Mark White, who supported the governor’s plan to launch a voucher program in Memphis and Nashville. He’s facing a credible challenge from an anti-voucher Democrat.

And teachers — no matter where you are — we still want to hear from you. What have conversations in your classroom around the local and national 2020 election been like so far? What specific lesson plans are you crafting for after Election Day? If you’re willing to give us a peek into your planning, fill out the form below.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said there were 10 total seats on the Indianapolis Public Schools board, rather than seven.

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