National Affiliation or Local Representation: When TFA Alumni Run for School Board


  • Rebecca Jacobsen Michigan State University
  • Tamara Wilder Linkow Abt Associates



Sschool board elections, Teach For America, representation, politics of education


Historically power to govern public schools has been delegated to local school boards. However, this arrangement of power has been shifting over the past half century and increasingly, local school boards are targeted as ineffective and antiquated. Teach For America (TFA), typically examined for its placement of teachers, also seeks to develop educational leaders and TFA now encourages and supports its alumni to run for local school boards. The involvement of a national organization, like TFA, with its own national education agenda in local school board elections may reflect the next step in the demise of local control. To investigate whether TFA’s involvement in local elections represents the spreading of a national agenda at the expense of attention to local issues, this research examines campaign messages for both TFA alumni candidates and their opponents. Results indicate that TFA alumni candidates incorporate significantly more messages aligned with TFA than their opponents (35 vs. 11), but they also maintain a focus on local issues as measured by the number of local issue messages they also incorporate into their campaign literature. Rather than debating whether school boards have lost power, this research points to the need to better understand how local politics is changing and expanding as new voices enter the arena.


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Author Biographies

Rebecca Jacobsen, Michigan State University

Rebecca Jacobsen, PhD. is an Associate Professor of Education Policy and Politics at Michigan State University. Her research uses a political perspective to examine how education policies shape education politics. Her recent research examines accountability policies and how school performance information shapes parent and public perceptions of school performance. Prior to enter academia, Rebecca taught in the New York City Public School system.  


Tamara Wilder Linkow, Abt Associates

Tamara Wilder Linkow, Ph.D. is an Associate in the Education Practice at Abt Associates. She has a wide range of experience in educational research focusing on federal policy, accountability, school choice, and program evaluation. Her current research interests are focused on strategies to improve college access. Prior to joining to Abt Associates, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, where her research concentrated on issues of college preparation, enrollment, and persistence.




How to Cite

Jacobsen, R., & Linkow, T. W. (2014). National Affiliation or Local Representation: When TFA Alumni Run for School Board. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 69.