August 13, 2019

By Lily Doctoroff

The Importance of School Board Elections

School board elections are incredibly important.

Though many people discount the influence of their local school board, the group makes a huge difference in the community. The school board often has a more direct effect than either state or federal government officials.

To give you an idea of the influence of school board officials, here is a sampling of a few of a school board member’s responsibilities:

  • Draft and oversee the school system budget
  • Set curriculum standards
  • Create and enforce school policies
  • Hire and employ the superintendent

Choices made by school board members in your area greatly affect the lives and well-being of those in your community.

Struggles School Board Candidates Face When Running for Office

School board elections are unique. These races are much more local than state or federal elections, but that doesn’t make them easy.

Here are a few struggles school board candidates face and how to deal with them.

The Partisan Divide

Some candidates approach school board elections as a partisan. Unlike congressional races which are all about the two parties, school board elections are not strictly partisan. Most voters just want to elect someone who will be good for their kids.

Solution: keep national politics out of your campaign (remember—it’s about helping the kids!)

Keep it Local

Similarly to those who approach school board elections as partisan, some candidates forget that school board elections are about local issues. To be a strong candidate you need to know what issues are most important to your area, not what people five states over are worried about

Solution: do your homework—research your area’s history, talk to voters, anything that will give you a better idea of how you can help your community.

Don’t Overcomplicate

Voters are busy. Some candidates forget that and try to mobilize voters with detailed plans, but most don’t have time to listen to all your talking points and ideas for when you’re elected.

Solution: keep it simple with clear stances on local issues and why voters should elect you.

(If you’re interested in how to create a clear campaign message check out our Crafting Your Message course to learn more)

Resources for School Board Candidates

Several courses in our Online Academy help provide the information needed to get a school board campaign off the ground.

We recommend Field Tactics and Using Personal Stories to Connect as a good place to start for school board candidates.

Additionally, we’ve partnered with Campaign Greenhouse, an organization that provides campaign coaching services and resources to help candidates develop successful campaigns.

Like NDTC, Campaign Greenhouse is dedicated to helping progressives get elected to office, including those running for school board.

To help more progressives run for school board, Campaign Greenhouse is giving out scholarships to waive their fees for school board candidates who take NDTC trainings.

That’s right—NDTC trained candidates are eligible to receive Campaign Greenhouse resources, network, and coaching services at no cost!

If you’re interested in learning more about this scholarship or Campaign Greenhouse’s mission, make sure to check out their website.

And don’t forget to check out the NDTC Online Academy for courses covering all aspects of your school board race. After all, you can never have too much help!

Lily was raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston. She currently lives in Chicago while she attends college at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Religious Studies with a concentration in American Politics. She is a member of the Communications team at NDTC.