From May 13-17, Washingtonians can file to seek election to any one of more than 2,000 elected offices. More than 700 of these will be for school board. Often whoever files for the office is unopposed and wins without a contest.
School board is not just for parents. The single most important task of the school board is to decide how to spend levy funds, and all taxpayers have an interest in effective uses of those funds.
What Does a School Board Do?
It is a myth that all the important decisions about schools are made in Olympia and Washington, D.C. Our state is a very strong local control state. Local school boards decide who will be hired, how they will be deployed and removed, what programmatic priorities will be funded, what curriculum is used, how students advance, how the schedule is organized, what facilities are needed, what options will be offered and how the community is treated.
Five critical functions are performed by school boards on a regular basis:
One: determining the local tax levy request amount.
Two: setting the budget for the school.
Three: negotiating the collective bargaining agreements with unions representing district staff.
Four: selecting curricula and programs to be emphasized.
Five: hiring & evaluating the Superintendent.
In addition to these, school directors have the final say, subject to some state minimum requirements, over:
- the calendar, the length of the school day and the number of days in the school year;
- staff evaluations and whether to make staffing decisions based on employee effectiveness or not;
- the criteria for “just cause” to intervene to help staff improve or move out of the classroom;
- the salary and benefits of employees as well as the use of incentives like extra compensation or leave time;
- curricula, assessments and the use of data;
- the number and kinds of schools, programs and options available to families;
- the academic requirements for sports, activities, grade advancement and graduation;
- the priorities for enhanced services like supplemental learning opportunities or special content; and,
- the placement, duties and service expectations of employees.
As I’ve emphasized in recent writings about bankrupt school districts, this is a critical time for school leadership teams. Most pressing are the huge self-inflicted debts that districts are facing and the temptation to raise property taxes to cover these obligations.
Interested in running?
In most cases filing for election to school board involves no cost and it can be done online. If you file and happen to change your mind, you can withdraw your candidacy any time before the end of the week.
Those who file have some obligation to report to the Public Disclosure Commission, which oversees the financing of election campaigns.
School directors must commonly attend three meetings per month and often receive a modest stipend for each meeting.
The Freedom Foundation believes the most important government involvement takes place at the local level. If the principles you hold dear are important for the United States Government, they are also important for your local government.
We owe it to these ideals to offer guidance to all levels of government.
Consider filing for local office. While the Freedom Foundation does not engage in election campaigns, we would be willing to discuss policy issues related to liberty and accountable government in your school district or local office.
Please call us at (360) 956-3482.
Not running for office but want to help?
Candidates for school board – even if they are unopposed – should be asked for public answers to 14 critical questions.
Jami Lund: Schools Don’t Need Another Property Tax Hike, Spokesman Review, March 7, 2019