As we near Election Day on November 8, I am reminded of that oft-repeated saying attributed to former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill, “All politics is local.”
One of the four focus areas of Congregations for Children is “Advocacy for Public Education,” and perhaps no elective office more closely links public school advocacy and O’Neill’s quote than that of the local school board member. So as each of us researches and wrestles with the decisions before us on the November 8 ballot, readers are urged to pay close attention to local school board elections.
A combination of low turnout (the National School Boards Association estimates in the 5-to-10% range) and low information can make school board races “susceptible to the whims of a small number of voters,” according to Jon Valant, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings.
Those “whims” could have implications for student achievement: A report published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank, found that “districts that are more successful academically have board members who assign high priority to improving student learning.”
The researchers concluded: “More than anything, what we take from this study is that school board members and their attitudes do matter — and therefore it’s important to take seriously who gets elected and how that is done.”“The Politics of School Boards” by Dean Drescher, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Education NC
Voters hold the key to fair elections of the most qualified school board candidates — regardless of the political affiliation of the candidate or the voter — who will devote their time, energy, and passion to ensuring that our public schools are effective, that our educators are fully supported, and that our children receive the highest quality education possible.
The health of our public schools — and our communities — is in our hands on November 8.