Malverne school district voters cast their ballots at Howard T....

Malverne school district voters cast their ballots at Howard T. Herber Middle School on Tuesday in Malverne. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island's school board elections on Tuesday marked widespread victories for candidates endorsed by local teacher unions, and numerous losses for those groups that backed candidates critical of the ways race, gender and history are taught.

Teacher unions endorsed 120 candidates for school boards on Long Island, and those candidates won 101, or 84%, of those races, according to the New York State United Teachers.

In contrast, the Moms for Liberty groups on Long Island endorsed 30 candidates and lost all but eight of them, according to a Newsday analysis of election results. 

That analysis was based on a list of endorsements posted online by the Moms for Liberty group. Brianna Richardson, chairman of the Suffolk chapter of the group, said Wednesday that names were later added to the list, but she did not provide those names or say how those additional candidates fared.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Island's school board elections on Tuesday marked widespread victories for candidates endorsed by local teacher unions.
  • In addition, the results reflected numerous losses for those groups who backed candidates critical of the ways race, gender and history are taught.
  • Teacher unions endorsed 120 candidates for school boards on Long Island, and won 101, or 84%, of those races, according to the New York State United Teachers.

"It shows the dominance of the teachers unions and their ability to turn out their vote," said Michael Dawidziak, a pollster and political consultant based in Bayport. 

In past years, that wouldn't be anything new, as teacher unions customarily "have the playing field to themselves" in school board races, he said. But this election was different. Political and advocacy groups increasingly injected themselves into traditionally nonpartisan, low-turnout school board elections.

Issues such as parental choice, mask mandates, gender identity and the teaching of diversity, equity and inclusion increased people's interest in these races, boosting the number of candidates and contested races — and the turnout.

This school board election drew 203,866 voters on Long Island, a bump of 36,208, or 22%, above last year, according to a Newsday analysis of turnout.

Groups such as Moms for Liberty and the Long Island Loud Majority, which say they reflect conservative values, endorsed numerous candidates. 

Barbara Abboud, chairwoman of the Moms for Liberty-Nassau County, acknowledged that Tuesday had its disappointments. 

"We're up against the machine … the established ecosystem that gets its constituency to the polls and knows how to get the word out," she said of teacher unions.

Abboud said she disagreed with those who say the results showed an electorate rejecting her group's stance on increasing parental rights and opposing the ways in which race, gender and history are taught. She pointed to victories for endorsed candidates in Seaford, Garden City and North Merrick. The group will make endorsements next year, she added.

On the other side, the Long Island Strong Alliance had asserted politics have no place in school board elections and made a point of saying it supported teachers. Group president Amanda Cohen-Stein said the strategy of groups such as Moms for Liberty didn't work.

"It backfired," Stein said. "We didn't see people get in who want to dismantle our public education system."

The results reflect an electorate largely at ease with the current state of affairs in Island schools, said Craig Burnett, a Hofstra University associate political science professor. 

"Teachers unions likely served as a useful cue for voters who were happy with the status quo," Burnett said. 

But Burnett said he was hesitant to apply the election results to any national trends, as these races are far smaller and more local than national contests.

This year's elections were less about school budgets than issues tinged with politics. Almost all school districts across Long Island — 123 of 124 — won voter support of budgets Tuesday, often by lopsided majorities. Only West Hempstead's proposed $71.39 million plan went down.

District Superintendent Dan Rehman said Wednesday: "While we are disappointed in the result, we will move forward to continue to provide a well-rounded education for our students. The district and board of education will meet in the coming days to discuss next steps."

West Hempstead can adopt a contingency budget or schedule a revote on its original budget or reduced version in June. 

For all the political undertones, the school board elections largely came down to a referendum on the Island's teachers and schools, said NYSUT president Andy Pallotta. He said teacher unions scored victories in districts such as Brentwood, Smithtown, Kings Park, Jericho, Bayport-Blue Point, Miller Place, Wantagh, Great Neck, Plainedge and Bethpage. 

The unions made 62,000 phone calls and knocked on 5,600 doors across the state, union officials said.

"Throughout the state, parents showed their support for the schools," Pallotta said.

Tuesday was a great day for Alex Piccirillo, the president of the Sachem school board, who won reelection. His endorsements included the local teacher union. 

"There's a willingness for everyone to work together, and [voters] realize that's the way I've been," Piccirillo said.

Both Piccirillo and Jaclyn Napolitano-Furno, the incumbent winner in the Connetquot race, received endorsements from another group relatively new to these elections — the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.

This is the second school board election in which the Suffolk PBA offered endorsements, and nine of their 14 endorsed candidates won, said Lou Civello, the group's second vice president.

Napolitano-Furno, an Oyster Bay Cove police officer, won despite the local teachers union supporting her opponent. She also was endorsed by the Moms for Liberty and the Long Island Loud Majority, but it was the support from police that she said made the difference.

"They pushed online, they did phone banks, they knocked on doors," said Napolitano-Furno, adding that she considers herself a moderate. "People said they voted for me because I did it with integrity. What are your beliefs? What do you bring to the table? What are you going to do for the kids?" 

With Michael Ebert

Latest videos