You’ve probably been reading a lot lately about your local school district’s proposed budget for next year. You’ve been seeing terms like “tax cap,” “unfunded mandates” and “fund balance” while learning about the tough choices some districts are making.
What you haven’t seen much of yet is information about the other item that will be on the ballots come May 21 — Board of Education elections. When voters head to the polls on the third Tuesday in May, as they do every year, they will have a chance not only to vote “yes” or “no” on the budget, but also to choose the people they want to decide how their tax dollars are spent.
Why haven’t you heard much about the school board elections yet? Because the deadline to run for a trustee seat is still a couple of weeks away. While proposed budgets are at or nearing their final stages, there is still plenty of time for prospective board candidates.
There are many good ways to serve your community, and being a member of your local Board of Education is one of the best ways, though far from the easiest. These are elected positions, but they are also unpaid. School board members put in countless volunteer hours each year because they care about their communities.
It’s hard work, especially in tough financial times, when board trustees are faced with the prospect of cutting, not adding, opportunities for students. They must carefully weigh the recommendations of their administrators while also listening to their constituents. Theirs is a two-part job, providing educational opportunities for students and advocating for taxpayers, which are often two competing interests when money is tight.
We realize that in a lot of districts, residents are upset with some of the cuts that are looming next year. This anger often turns into “no” votes for the budget, which can do more harm than good if a district has to go on austerity and cut further. A more productive way to channel those feelings is through a run for school board.