For years, the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s voting system diluted the voice of Black residents.
That’s about to change.
“Our children need someone on the school board who is really working on their behalf,” said Mildred Clines, Ferguson-Florissant School District resident. “We’ve had many people on the school board who didn’t either listen to our voices or didn’t take into account what the community wanted.”
That's why a federal court ordered a new, fairer voting system to make sure the school board represented the community.
This April, voters in the Ferguson-Florissant School District school board election will be part of history.
On Election Day, voters can cast two votes for Ferguson-Florissant School Board candidates. They may cast both votes for one candidate or split them by giving one vote to two different candidates.
This system, called cumulative voting, is an alternative to the standard ballot. It allows voters to cast multiple votes on a single candidate.
The district needed a change because the at-large voting system diluted the African-American vote, resulting in a school board that has not been responsible to the community it serves.
That’s why the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit on behalf of the residents and the NAACP against the Ferguson-Florissant School District in 2014. At the time of the lawsuit, there was one Black member on the seven-member school board, despite African-Americans representing more than 80 percent of the student population in the district.
In 2016, a federal court found the district in violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered the district to implement a fairer kind of voting system.
Cumulative voting increases the opportunity for African-American voters to gain representation on the board, since they constitute a minority of the district’s voting age population. If members of a minority group are able to combine their votes for a certain candidate, they can hope to get them elected.
When the Ferguson-Florissant School District merged with Berkeley and Kinloch in 1975, many schools closed down. When the Ferguson-Florissant School District merged with Berkeley and Kinloch in 1975, many schools closed down. There were eight schools originally in Berkeley, a municipality that is 81 percent Black, according to the 2010 census. Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, Berkeley will only have two open schools.
Important decisions, such as whether to close a school or not, fall under the responsibility of the school board. Members also decide on picking a superintendent, and developing and adopting policies, curriculum, and the budget.
Often, school board members, especially those in large districts, are more representative of the communities they serve than state legislatures and members of U.S. Congress.
“This election is important because the achievement of our students will be improved,” said resident Judy Ferguson-Shaw. “And when the student’s achievement is improved, the community improves.”
Want to learn more?
Join us for a voter education and candidate forum on March 26 from 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Greater Grace Family Church 3690 Pershall Road, Ferguson, MO 63135.
On April 2, be heard. Be represented. Be part of history. Vote.