Settled By Two Votes: Delaware school board elections
Almost a year ago, a school board race in Delaware’s Christina School District was settled by just two votes. Had thousands of voters gone to the polls, a two-vote margin would have signaled a great race. Rather, the vote was 326 to 324, just a paltry number of Christina’s eligible voters. Does that mean that we don’t care about our schools? Not at all. From opinion polls, we know that 80 percent believe that a quality education is the key to finding a good job in today’s modern economy, and nearly 70% say that a diploma from America’s public high schools does not prepare graduates to get a good-paying job (Alliance for Excellent Education, June 2010). Rather, it’s likely that the lack of visibility around school board races and the off-cycle election in May, not November, depress voting. Just as likely, the responsibilities of board members aren’t fully appreciated.
So, what do school board members do? Most importantly, they develop and steward the district’s budget; they adopt and implement a capital plan; they levy taxes and secure bonds; they hire, evaluate, and dismiss the superintendent and top district personnel; they set the policies that govern our schools (think curriculum, class sizes, length of school day and year, and distribution of teachers); and among many other responsibilities they negotiate teacher contracts with the local union. Their role in what happens in the classroom may seem removed, yet the imprint of a board—or its majority membership—dictates almost everything that transpires in our schools.
Especially today, boards are powerful players in the implementation of Delaware’s Race to the Top work. One-half of the $119 million grant goes to the districts—governed by local boards—and much of the rest directly influences what happens locally, by virtue of changes at the state level in standards, assessments, and evaluation systems.
Just last Friday, March 2nd, candidates filed for local board elections, and on May 8th elections will be held in 16 districts across the state (Delaware’s three Vo-tech districts have appointed boards). In the interim, the races will unfold. Only 10K voters across the entire state cast their ballots for board members last spring. We can change that. And we must.
What can you do? You can seek out the candidates, ask questions, attend debates, and most importantly you can vote on May 8th. So, put May 8th on your calendar now.
Armed with these and other questions, you should have a great discussion with local candidates. Learn more about school boards and local races in New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County and make sure to visit your local polling place on May 8th from 10am to 8pm. Our students deserve your vote!
Later this month, Part II of this series will offer questions you can pose to board candidates to help you determine your vote.
Related Topics: School Boards