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The Importance of School Boards to Local Politics

The Importance of School Boards to Local Politics


School boards represent an integral part of local government and politics; however, many often overlook their significance. Composed of a group of elected members of a particular community, school boards represent public school districts and work to set educational goals, outline teaching standards, and promote effective teaching practices. Therefore, from an educational standpoint, members of school boards hold much power in the sense that they influence many of the decisions regarding the district’s curriculum. Even though school board members require an election, they do not have to be formally trained in education, allowing people from a variety of backgrounds to maintain control over a district. For instance, businesspeople, parents, doctors, lawyers, and unemployed individuals all possess the ability to run for a position on the board and serve their own communities. While some dismiss the political power of school boards, elected trustees act as the “voice” of the community and take into consideration the opinions of students, faculty, and parents. Furthermore, trustees use the ideas of the community and share them with the superintendent of the district, the individual in charge of enforcing these educational decisions. Moreover, the school board has other responsibilities, such as making sure the school district is following state educational standards and practices, hiring the superintendent, looking over certain district educational policies, overseeing the budget, and sharing information with the community. Ultimately, through a majority vote, the board determines if certain policies are implemented.


While school boards hold much significance, some might find the idea that anyone can run for a position on the board controversial. For instance, many believe that individuals experienced in the field of education should determine a public school district’s decisions rather than those who lack knowledge of the public school system. More recently, in states such as Florida, school boards have come under scrutiny due to the banning of books based on their discussion of race, gender, and sexual orientation. As a result, many students and parents are protesting their own school boards in the fight to end book banning and maintain literary freedom. 


As previously discussed, school boards hold a significant amount of power in the sense that their decisions directly affect students. Young people, in particular, should care about school boards because they directly serve the needs of students. Additionally, school boards have the power to change educational policies that are negatively affecting students; therefore, overlooking the importance of school boards can be detrimental to students. According to Sandra Tolliver, a writer and public relations professional, “We talk about schools as being the smallest unit of government that we can get involved in and it matters for our future, but when we have such significant drop-off [in voting] we have to question, are these democratic? Those who are voting have outside influence on what happens in your schools. If you don’t like what’s happening and you want to change things, it starts with you voting and reaching out to your neighbors to encourage them to do the same.” In other words, by encouraging more active participation in the election process of school board trustees, the district will more accurately reflect the needs of students and parents. Tolliver’s words also describe how school boards are minor subunits of the government, serving as a mechanism by which students can voice their opinions and change educational policies for the betterment of their own educational experience.


Although many have recently criticized school boards for their inability to reflect the needs of their constituents, some positive results have come out of their decisions. For example, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, many school boards across the United States implemented policies to help mitigate the spread of the disease and provide virtual learning options. In particular, school boards assisted with the distribution of masks, increasing sanitization, and providing virtual as well as hybrid learning options, which helped schools continue to function even during the pandemic. Due to these initiatives during this period, many schools were able to stay open and provide students with the resources to succeed. However, it is important to recognize that the success of these initiatives during the pandemic varied in different public school districts across the country. Another example of how school boards have positively impacted their districts is by providing useful resources such as textbooks, supplies, and updated curriculums to students. Through a school board’s actions, schools can expand their curriculums to best fit the needs of both students and teachers. Furthermore, school boards have the power to address bullying and stop discriminatory practices. For instance, educational campaigns to create more inclusive environments at schools that create safe spaces for all students have been correlated with a greater student success rate.  


Lastly, it is important to encourage students to participate in the decision-making process of their school boards. While minors cannot run for a position, students can register to speak at school board meetings to influence policy decisions. According to the non-profit organization Parents Defending Education, “At the school board website, look for “Citizen Participation” or a similar option. Once you select this option, you will see a button or link to “Register to Speak at Regular School Board meeting” or something along those lines. You may be able to submit a video testimony – but if this option exists, you’ll usually need to sign up several days in advance. Find out what the deadline is! Some districts have a designated time when speaker registration opens – it depends on the system, but might be early, like 6 a.m. Speaking spots can fill up in seconds, so keep an eye on when registration opens, set your alarm, and claim your spot! Speaking slots are usually limited to a certain length of time (for example, three minutes).” Therefore, even students can indirectly participate in this important democratic process that impacts their education.










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