The majority of the thousands of school boards in our nation are governed by elected school boards. The local school board is the body that provides the essential link between the public—the citizens who both entrust their children to the educational system and pay taxes to support it—and the system itself, including the principals, teachers, and administrators who run it. As the Wisconsin State School Boards Association pointed out, “There is hardly a single agency of government which is more a function of local control than the school board.”
There is hardly a more apt example of school boards mattering enormously than the Biden Administration, in 2021, mobilizing the FBI to monitor local school board meetings for potential “domestic terrorist” threats in the form of concerned parents simply voicing their opinions on their children’s education.
It is a privilege to serve on the local school board, but it is also a serious responsibility, and one voters should never again take lightly. The school board sets academic and policy goals for the district and works with the appropriate parties to accomplish them. It also manages the education budget, oversees school personnel (including teachers, administrators, facility managers, and subcontractors) and serves as an advocate for students. More specifically, the local school board’s responsibilities include:
- Managing and approving the district budget, which includes setting levies (many citizens are surprised to learn that their local board establishes approximately 55 to 60 percent of their personal property tax bill)
- Hiring and working with the district superintendent
- Approving teacher salaries
- Monitoring student achievement
- Tracking district enrollment and attendance
- Setting the academic calendar
- Overseeing school personnel
- Overseeing student services
- Reviewing and approving curricula (which has been under incredible scrutiny in recent years as more and more school boards appear unwilling to listen to parents regarding things like sex education, Critical Race Theory, and potential pornography in children’s’ libraries) READ: Parents ‘Don’t Get How Teaching Works’
- Managing student transportation
- Ensuring local schools comply with federal and state academic standards
- Approving facility maintenance and construction
- Negotiating subcontractor agreements
- Providing parents and members of the community a voice into the education of local students (a vitally important but often overlooked aspect of the job, and one that recent school boards have been curtailing after concerned parents brought forward dissenting opinions regarding Critical Race Theory, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, acquiescence to gender dysphoric student and parent demands, and other issues)
While a handful of school boards are appointed, the vast majority is popularly elected. Because school board members are the only elected members of the local educational system, they have a tremendous responsibility and power in charting the course of the system and determining the quality of education students receive.
Structure – Local school boards generally have five to nine members who serve two- to four-year terms. Urban school districts are usually divided into subsections, each with its own representative on the school board, while members in smaller districts tend to serve at large. Boards generally appoint two of their members to serve as board president and vice president. The board is also aided by a clerk and a treasurer who are not members of the board.