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Civic Engagement: How and Why to Attend Your Local School Board Meetings

Written By:

Bella Cesairo

Publishing Date:

November 13, 2022

How and Why to Attend Your Local School Board Meetings


Having a functional understanding of how your local community sets educational standards for public schools is extremely important if you desire to be an informed community member and voter. According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), school boards are important to the community because they “establish the vision and goals for the public schools in their district, and they set standards for the performance of schools and superintendents.” Despite the campaigning and election process, school board members are still community members and, as such, need to be trusted by the community and must possess the trust of their constituents to keep the educational values of the community in mind. The NSBA outlines six reasons why voting in school board elections is essential: (1) school board budgets are entirely dedicated to local education; (2) these public officials represent their community in the public education system and have the closest ties to the students in schools they govern; (3) school boards create and outline requirements and goals for students; (4) community members have direct access to school boards, making it an accessible forum; (5) school board members are elected directly by the people they serve, so they must commit to the service and goals they’ve promised; and (6) school boards ensure that the community’s money is being used properly and to its full potential. 


These public officials have direct control over the education of the youth, which has a direct effect on the future of the youth in the community. According to Edutopia, the “decisions [school boards] make often have a greater long-term impact on our communities than those of any other elected body at any other level of government.” Griffin and Ward outline several responsibilities school boards must fulfill to be effective: (1) school boards must be focused on ensuring student achievement; (2) school boards must actively assess and evaluate the needs of their students across the district to provide the proper resources; (3) school boards must evaluate their spending and determine if certain expenses are worth it; (4) school boards must evaluate the data measured from the schools in their governance; and (5) school boards must be accessible to and interact with their community. Student success is not entirely determined by the quality of education that instructors provide through their teaching, but it is reliant upon the environment created within the school and district. According to The Holdsworth Center, school boards contribute to student success by “...creating the right conditions for excellence to flourish and setting high expectations of success.” 


Regularly attending school board meetings is important to being an active member in your community and provides an opportunity to communicate feedback on the direction of education in your district.Each school district must have accessible school board meetings, so check your school district’s website or contact schools in your community directly for information on upcoming meetings. Additionally, be sure to vote in school board elections to ensure that your school board reflects your beliefs. School board elections typically have low voter turnout, according to the NSBA, “...often just 5 percent or 10 percent.” The timing of school board elections varies by state, so researching your local school governance is important. Brookings argues that participating in school board elections more important now than ever, “...with boards tackling complex questions about public health, education, and budgeting amid a great deal of uncertainty.” Participating in these elections is a simple way to get involved in your community while providing your input. 


Sources

Cohen, Jake. “The School Board Effect: How Trustees Can Impact Student Success.” The Holdsworth Center, The Holdsworth Center, 27 Nov. 2018, https://holdsworthcenter.org/blog/school-board-effect-how-trustees-can-impact-student-su ccess/. 


Griffin Jr., Arthur, and Carter D. Ward. “Five Characteristics of an Effective School Board: A Multifaceted Role, Defined.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 21 Mar. 2006, https://www.edutopia.org/five-characteristics-effective-school-board. 


National School Boards Association. “About School Board and Local Governance.” National School Boards Association, National School Boards Association, 2019, https://www.nsba.org/About/About-School-Board-and-Local-Governance.

National School Boards Association Jinghong Cai Senior Rese. “The Public's Voice.” National School Boards Association, National School Boards Association, 1 May 2020, https://www.nsba.org/ASBJ/2020/April/the-publics-voice

Valant, Jon. “It's Time to Start Voting in Your Local School Board Elections.” Brookings, Brookings, 9 Mar. 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/11/01/its-time-to-start-voting-in-your-local-school-board-elections/