Frequently Asked Questions About Elected School Boards
Q. What is a school board member?
A. School board members (sometimes called school committee members, or trustees) are democratically elected representatives of the local community who make decisions that impact your public schools.
Q. What are the responsibilities of a school board?
A. A school board selects the district Superintendent, establishes the vision, goals and policies of the school district. The Board is responsible for the development of the annual budget, ensuring resources are used wisely and in accordance with all state and federal requirements. Members are responsive to the needs and wishes of the community.
Q. If I am elected, will I be able to change district policies to reflect my values and priorities?
A. Part of your responsibility as a board member is to set district policies. However, you will be one member of a board, so you will not be able to make changes unilaterally. Depending upon the size of your board, there may be 4, 6, 8, or even more additional elected members sitting on the board with you. In order to change existing policies, or create new policies, it is important that you establish a strong working relationship with your fellow board members. If you were elected by a strong margin, you may have the support of the community which you can leverage, but you still cannot make changes on your own.
Q. What are the qualities of a good school board candidate, and effective school board member?
A. First and foremost, candidates should have a sincere interest in public education. Candidates should have a strong ability to communicate, sound judgement, an understanding of budgeting and education policy, and a commitment to teamwork.
Q. Can I choose any community to run for school board?
A. No. Election laws require that every candidate reside within school district boundaries.
Q. I am a paid employee of my school district, can I still run for a seat?
A. No. Serving as an elected school board member and working for your district is a conflict of interest and prohibited by election law. In addition to the residency requirement, candidates must also be 18 years of age, and a registered voter. You can, however help to elect candidates who reflect your priorities and viewpoint.
Q. Is a school board member paid?
A. Generally not. School board members tend to be dedicated volunteers; 75 percent of small-district school board members receive no salary and less than 40 percent of large-district school board members work more than 40 hours per month on board-related duties in return for a modest salary. See more at: https://www.nsba.org/about-us/frequently-asked-questions#sthash.8QWNbIwg.dpuf
Q. What is the difference between at-large and designated seat elections?
A. At large elections are set up so that all candidates for the same position run to represent the general population, and the candidate with the highest vote count wins the election. An election for designated seats pit candidates against one another for the seat, sometimes by geographical area. For example, in an at large election with two seats available, candidates A, B, C, and D all run for the same position and the two candidates with the highest vote total are elected. In a designated seat election, candidates A and B will run head to head, as will candidates C and D. The candidate in each race with the highest number of votes will be declared the winner- even if candidates A and B each receive more votes than candidates C and D.
Q. I missed the deadline to submit petitions to appear on the ballot, can I still run?
A. It might be more difficult, but yes you can run as a write in candidate.
Q. Where can I find information about important public education issues to increase my understanding?
A. Visit www.networkforpubliceducation.org for helpful information about privatization, charters, testing and more public education issues.
Q. How can I identify potential candidates for my school board?
A. If you are unable or unwilling to run as a candidate, you may wish to identify others willing to run. Think about those people who are involved in your community who are dedicated to working towards goals that support and improve your local schools. If you take some time to think about individuals who have spoken out at meetings, or volunteer endlessly, you will probably be able to identify potential candidates. Who do you know that has the qualities of a good candidate we mentioned earlier? Talk to others in your community for suggestions, and then approach the people you have identified. They may not be willing to run just yet, but with your encouragement and support, they may just take the plunge!
Q. What kind of support is there for new school board members?
A. Your state and local School Board Associations will likely host trainings and offer support and information for new and seasoned board members. You can also connect with like minded board members through NPE Action’s Grassroots School Board Members Network. This group provides resources and a way to connect with school board members nationwide to protect and promote public education. You can find sample resolutions, ask for input and advice.
Q. I really want to run for my local school board, but I have no idea how to run a campaign. Where can I find help to get started?
A. NPE Action recognizes the importance of electing pro-public education school board members in every community. That’s why we have created the School Board Campaign Toolkit. This Toolkit will help guide you all the through making the decision to run, creating a campaign plan, to election day!