Over the past year, many parents and their fellow taxpayers across the country began to realize that their local schools seem to be less focused on academic rigor and excellence and more focused on pushing trendy, radical political agendas. Local schools are overseen by school boards. Where there’s smoke – a school board that has been working on political activism instead of education – there’s almost always fire: school board members who are enabling or ensuring it.
You may find that your own school board members are pushing toxic and destructive policies. They may be actively working on incorporating “critical race theory”, watering down mathematics and science, eliminating advanced or honors classes, embedding far-left political activism (“social justice,” “equity,” etc.) in the curriculum and professional development of teachers and staff, and promoting sexually inappropriate, even pornographic, material in literature selections and sex education courses, including to very young children.
Parents around the country are asking, “What can be done?” However, the better question is: “What can I do?”
“I Can’t Run for School Board.”
Yes, you can! Your local school board members have no special credentials: they simply stepped up, ran, and won their seat.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely your school board members aren’t doing a very good job. If this is the case, then it is time to replace them; it is why we have elections, and the next one is your goal.
Who Makes a Good School Board Member?
School boards govern the direction of the district. There are no distinct, education-specific qualifications or requirements for becoming a school board member. The talents and insights of parents committed to great outcomes for children are invaluable attributes when compared to those who run for school board seats to promote a political or ideological agenda in classrooms or to jump-start a political career.
You don’t have to be a parent to run – you only need to be a concerned member of the community who understands that we all have an interest in a school system producing well-educated students who will be responsible, productive members of society.
Run for Your School Board: Five(-ish) Easy Steps
If you have never been involved in a campaign, it may seem overwhelming to know where to start. Here are some basic steps to get the ball rolling:
- The When: Figure out when the next school board election will be held. Start with the date of the General Election – even if it is several years out – and work backwards, noting dates for any primary, as well as candidacy filing dates, etc. This timeline will frame your campaign.
- The Who: List the members of your current school board. Include the geographic area each member represents in the jurisdiction, and general details about their seat: how long they have served, whether they are seeking re-election, the pros and cons for their candidacy, etc. If known, add community, political groups, and parent and/or activist organizations that support each school board member. Identify any known challengers for the school board seats and their known sources of support.
- The Why: If you’re thinking about running, write down the main reason(s) you want to be a school board member. For each reason, add the following:
- The Good: Begin with what the current school board is doing well. It may seem tough, but honestly reflect on the reputation of the school board members and the whole board. There are probably some things that are going well, and you need to know about them and be able to talk about them.
- The Bad: List what the school board and members are not doing well. This will be the core purpose you are running. Talk to friends, parents, and family to gauge the degree to which your concerns with the board are shared. Document specifically what the school board is doing that upsets the community and will lead voters to support a different school board member.
- The Solution: Identify what you want to do differently and how you would do it. This may be hard at the outset, since it is easier to identify problems than solutions – however, being able to tell people how you’d fix problems is vital to a winning campaign. Take the time to work through ideas and solutions you will champion if you win a school board seat.
- The Previous Election: Research the last election, or last few elections, to identify how many candidates campaigned for each school board seat, how much money they raised and spent, how many votes each candidate received, etc. This is essential knowledge to developing a campaign plan.
- The Campaign & Election: Congratulations – with the first four steps above, you have the beginning of a campaign plan. The rest can be completed at your kitchen table – and out in the community.
- Get a “Kitchen Cabinet”. Ask some trusted friends, fellow parents, and other supporters to work with you. They can help get petitions signed to get you on the ballot, act as your treasurer, driver, or babysitter, be a sounding board for ideas, help you fundraise, and be a general cheering section.
- Go to school board meetings. There is no substitute for watching the mechanics of a school board meeting in-person. Videos and livestreams do not convey all that occurs in a meeting, especially the interactions among the members and the superintendent. Being present and doing this homework will give you valuable insight to use in campaign messaging.
- Know your district. You don’t need to know everything, but learning the basics statistics on your school district is important. You should know the number of students, schools, and employees, the size of the budget and its recent growth, how the budget and school construction is funded, the boundaries and constituent base of the school board seat, and other general information that will help you be familiar with the concerns of fellow parents.
- Focus on your message! Ideas win over ideology. You probably already have a really good idea what you and your community want. Work with your Kitchen Cabinet to establish a few great talking points. You will be ahead of the game with the basis of a winning campaign. Importantly, work to be a happy warrior – you may have strong criticisms of your political opponents, and the issues around which the campaign revolves may be contentious. However, while you may make strong, sharp points, avoid coming across as bitter or extreme:
voters tend to support people who can frame their message positively.
- Fundraise and Meet & Greet. Yes, you will have to ask people for money – but remember, you are only asking to make education better for children, not for yourself.
- Establish a campaign budget based on research of previous campaigns, and work within that. Raising money is not your goal – you simply need a good team of volunteers who will work with you to raise enough so you can focus on your goal: earning votes.
- Important: Minimize time spent on signs and campaign handouts – signs do not win elections. What does win elections? Spending time with people and asking for their vote.
- Have volunteers and supporters set up as many “Meet & Greet” opportunities as possible – keep them simple events (coffees, ice cream socials, etc.) that allow you to talk with people you do not know throughout the community you seek to represent. These events will grow the conversation with your future constituents and help you better understand what they are care about.
- Listen, a lot! Be willing to add, adjust, and manage your messaging based on what you hear when you listen to people’s concerns.
- Talk to people – everywhere. Be unafraid to tell everyone you are running and to ask for their vote.
Be Undaunted & Empowered!
Finally, steel yourself. Be willing to unapologetically stand for what you believe and surround yourself with people who believe the same and who will fight with you. People will talk about you, they will be unkind, and they will criticize you for daring to challenge the status quo and pushing back against “woke” agendas.
At the same time, you may also find campaigning to be a deeply rewarding experience. You will meet all kinds of people and encounter support in your community that you would have never experienced if you had not run. While some people will criticize you, take heart, as many will celebrate and praise you for having the courage to run.
Most importantly, your children and their future IS worth fighting for – never doubt it!
If you are worried that it is too difficult, just think about the fact that the people who currently hold the school board seats did it. If the “woke folk” you are looking to unseat were able to do it, you certainly can – and a lot better!
Resources for Parents:
The Name on the Ballot You’ve Never Heard Of: An overview from American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Nat Malkus on why candidates for school board matter.
Southlake, Texas Parents Sweep School Board Elections: They battled back against the Critical Race Theory-pushers and WON! They did it, and you can too!
How To Stop Critical Race Theory In Your Local Schools: Advice from a School Board Member
This School District’s Parents Are Fighting Back in Unison: See how these parents are organizing, communicating, and exposing school board members! Have social-media savvy parents? Take to the local radio airwaves, twitter-sphere and more to carry a campaign message like parents in this county, who are working to recall current school board members while they plan to run and support fellow parents in the next election to take back their school board!
The Makings of a School Board Member: A concise overview of the qualities that make a great school board member. While the article may be somewhat dated, the information and relevancy are not.