An assessment of the representativeness of elected and appointed school board members in selected school districts in Virginia and Kentucky

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This study was undertaken to determine whether elected school boards are more representative of the populace than are appointed school boards. Since there have been debates for many years on whether elected school boards are more representative than appointed school boards, this study sought to reinforce the position that elected boards are more representative.

For purposes of this paper, representativeness was defined as the replication in the school board of certain local demographic features, including occupation, level of family income, years of formal schooling, race, sex, place of work, age, and native born.

The states selected for investigation were Kentucky, where all school boards are elected, and Virginia, where they are all appointed. Individual school districts within each state were classified according to both wealth and enrollment. The 1970 Bureau of the Census data were recorded for each district specifically for the demographic characteristics to be measured in this study.

Composites of the individual districts according to both wealth and size were compiled in such a way as to preclude the identification of any one school district or school board. The school board data were compiled from information included in questionnaires submitted to randomly selected school boards in both states.

The composite data of classifications by state, by low, medium, and high wealth districts, and by low, medium, and high enrollment districts were computerized and reported in a chi square statistical analysis.

The chi square analysis demonstrated that, on the state level, both Virginia and Kentucky school board members were significantly different from their populations in all categories except in the native born category which did show a similarity between board members and their populations residing in the state of their birth. There were no discernible trends evidenced on the lesser composite levels according to either wealth or enrollment of the school districts, indicating that neither wealth nor enrollment of the school district made any difference in the composition of the school boards.

Another comparison of school board membership and school district demography was included to denote the degree of representativeness as measured by a plus or minus ten percent difference between the two. These results indicated that on the state level, Kentucky had proportional representation in the race and native born categories. Virginia displayed proportional representation in only one category, native born.

As a result of this study, typical school board members in both Virginia and Kentucky were found to be white collar workers, earning $15,000 or more in family income, college trained, white, male, working in the city or county of residence, between the ages of forty-five and fifty-nine, and born in their respective states.