Politics, Polarization, and Politicization of Social Emotional Learning and School Boards
June 01, 2022
Appears in 2022 Summer Journal of Scholarship and Practice.
The purpose of this study is to analyze Illinois school board members’ perspectives on SEL, educational equity, and responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Survey responses were collected from 61 Illinois school board members in the summer of 2021. The survey included open-ended questions regarding administrator’s opinions about different aspects of education related to social emotional learning (SEL), mental health, equity, and the pandemic.
Overall, findings showed that responding to the pandemic and addressing educational equity are both divisive issues identified by school board members. In addition to being contentious, some school board members do not think that addressing inequities is a necessary function of their board or district. SEL is less divisive, but some participants held relatively narrow ideas of how schools should address SEL. Importantly, these patterns occurred across district type—rural, urban, or suburban; majority minority or majority white; and poverty rates. In understanding how school board members are thinking about these issues, we are better prepared to support P-12 administrators in working with their school boards and community to advance policies and initiatives that can support students’ SEL and mental health needs, regardless of the beliefs of segments of their communities.
Rachel Roegman, EdD Associate Professor Education Policy, Organization and Leadership University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
Kevin Tan, PhD Associate Professor School of Social Work College of Education University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
Patrick Rice, PhD Clinical Assistant Professor Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
Jenna Mahoney, MSW PhD Student University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL