Why Should We Care About School Board Elections?

6/30/2017
Ryan Barry

By far some of the most important and overlooked elections, school board contests play a vital role in determining outcomes for whole generations, yet they seem to receive nowhere near the type of media attention that boisterous national races do. Colorado Springs and its surrounding areas have school board elections coming up on November 7, 2017 and this has many wondering why school boards are so important. While juggling school, work, and other responsibilities, it can be hard for the average person to keep track of national elections let alone school board contests. Despite this lack of attention, school board contests are of enormous consequence and participating in them is one of the most effective ways of making a meaningful impact on your local community.

School boards set local policy and their decisions carry the force of law at the local level. School boards are responsible for establishing budgets, setting goals and policies, establishing guidelines for reviews and evaluations of schools, guiding collective bargaining (teachers’ unions), overseeing the schools’ transportation services, and serving as an advocate for students and schools, among other functions. They also serve the critical function of reflecting the community’s vision and philosophy for its educational future.

For parents who have children currently enrolled in public school, the reasons for caring about school board seem obvious - decisions made at the school board level will have a direct impact on their children’s daily lives and can influence opportunities and outcomes for whole generations of students. But for adults with no children of their own or whose children have graduated, worrying about the outcome of school board elections doesn’t seem to be a high priority. Like most local elections, particularly those in “off” election years, school board races tend to yield some of the lowest voter turnout rates. This means that a very small percentage of the population is making choices for future generations – it also means that participating in school board elections is likely to have the biggest impact, with many races being decided by a handful or a few dozen votes. Though it is true in every election, every vote really does matter in school board races. School board officials also tend to be much more open and receptive to constituent concerns than other elected officials – you have the opportunity to mold and directly influence your school board officials on a level that you’re unlikely to experience with national or even state officials.

Access to quality public education can have a stabilizing and stimulating effect on local communities. In order for a community to excel it needs a well-educated populace to contribute its skills to the workforce and ultimately help the economy. Investing in our students and caring about the people who run our school boards contributes to a strong, vibrant workforce and helps ensure the vitality of a community. When public schools are neglected or under-funded, the ramifications can be dramatic and have a destabilizing effect on local economies for many years. Universal public education is one of the cornerstones upon which our free society was built – without access to quality public schools, society cannot advance culturally or economically.

We still have much time before our November school board elections, meaning we still have a large window of opportunity to make a substantial impact on these contests. Even if you don’t have children in public school, participating in school board elections is a responsibility we all share to ensure that every student has access to outstanding public education. So, whether you decide to register voters, talk to your friends and neighbors, make phone calls, or run for office yourself, be sure to make your voice heard in whatever way you can, and, most importantly, vote!

Click here to see what school district you live in.

Click here to register to vote.

Click here to check your voter registration status or to update your registration.

Click here to learn more about the 2017 school board elections.

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