Should You Run For School Board?

Do You have what it takes to be on the School Board?. Hill Street Studios via Getty images

http://parentinginschools.about.com/od/Advocate-For-Schools/ The US public school system is unique in its local control.  At the heart of this system are local school boards - the bodies that hire superintendents, set budgets, negotiate with teachers unions, create and implement a wide variety of educational policies.  If you are looking for a place where your involvement can really make a difference in your local schools and community, then consider running for the local school board.

What Does A School Board Member Do?

School board members review and establish budgets, set local policies and curriculum, and negotiate ("bargain") with teachers unions over employment wages and contracts.  if this sounds like most political councils, that's because it is one.  Be prepared for regular public meetings, reviewing proposals, public discussion of voting matters, and making yourself available to local community members who wish to share their thoughts with you about the direction of local schools.

Who Can Run For School Board?

Each state has its own requirements, which you should be able to find through your state's website.  In general, most states require that school board members be at least eighteen years of age, not be a convicted felon, have graduated from high school, be registered voter, run in the school district you live in, and cannot be related to anyone who is a currently a district employee, or be a current district employee themselves.

What Else Do I Need?

All you really need is a desire to see students succeed in school.  Of course, it would help if you have knowledge of school policy and current issues.  Are you familiar with Robert's Rules of Order for conducting meetings?  Do you have the time and desire to attend meetings, speak with people, and review complex documents?

 

What Else Should I Be Prepared For?

Sometimes highly charged, controversial topics will need to be addressed by the school board - and you will be one of the decision makers.  In addition to how to implement Common Core State Standards, school boards address issues like student-to-teacher ratio and how to approach sexual education in the local public schools.  Are you able to listen and consider ideas from angry people who disagree with you?  Are you able to keep to the issue without getting involved in taking sides?  You will also hear complaints from parents and community members about local schools.  Parents or students who feel that they were not treated fairly at the school level will come to you for addressing their concerns.  This could be the result of a misunderstanding.  As a representative of the local schools you will probably be approached at some point by an upset community member with a bone to pick with a particular teacher or school.  It will then fall to you to listen objectively to this person to decide if this is a problem that should be addressed by the school board or someone with a bone to pick.

 

While not every topic addressed by a school board will be met with strong emotion, it is important to be prepared for highly charged topics, so they can be addressed in an open and calming manner.  

OK, I Want To Do This, How Do I Run For School Board?

Your first step is to start following what the local school board is doing.  Read local news articles, attend public meetings, and try to learn more about the issues the school board is discussing.  Your next step is to find out how to register as a candidate for school board. Make sure you pay attention to deadlines and campaigning rules.  Don't worry too much about campaigning costs - school board elections are often some of the least expensive campaigns to run.  Lastly, you will need to campaign.  Find out about local political forums through newspaper and radio.  Meet with voters to let them know what you will do as a school board member.  School board elections typically have a low turn out, so getting elected is often a matter of getting people to vote in the election at all.  

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