The importance of school boards

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The deadline to file paperwork to be on the November ballot for the school board and city elections is Friday, Sept. 19, at 5 p.m. These bodies offer everyone the opportunity to participate in government at one of the most local levels. If you need to be refreshed regarding seats available, see our article here.

Public K-12 education is our State’s largest expense, to the tune of $5.9 billion in general fund revenue for 2017-18.  Often that is for good reason, as children are the future of the state and should receive the finest learning opportunities we have to offer.

In my personal opinion, I believe the State needs to reevaluate its priorities to ensure that our public education is sustainable well into the future. That may mean policy changes that reduce costs to districts and taxpayers while finding ways to improve the quality of learning children receive. The total budgeted revenue for the five districts based in Marion County for fiscal year 2019 is $102,094,101.

Many times before, I have said there is only so much money, the government and even teachers can do. The primary responsibility for a child’s education should, and does, fall with the parent/guardian. A child’s home life, love he or she receives, interest in the child’s success shown by adults all play much bigger roles than money in my opinion.

With that said, school boards are ultimately responsible for the education of Iowa kids. There are far too many mandates handed down by the state to which local districts must adhere, but board members can visit classrooms. They can talk to kids. They hire superintendents, principals and help select teachers and every other adult employee with whom students come in contact at school every day.

That is not overstating the importance of school boards. That is exactly their role.

Beyond personnel, which is the biggest expense of any school district, the board helps plan the future of the district in every aspect. Everything from facilities to curriculum to learning materials to vehicles to sports uniforms all fall in some way under the board’s auspices.

With as involved as school board members must be, it takes a special person to do the job well. This means taking the time to invest in the future by attending events, talking to staff and students, checking out facilities and researching everything from architects to HVAC systems to make sure their districts remain viable. All board members should put trust in the people they have hired, but that does not mean anyone should be a hands-off rubber stamp for their ideas.

Please consider running for your local school board if you are able to dedicate the time and care that the job requires. The Iowa Association of School Boards has plenty of good information available here.

Boards are not able to improve the quality of life for every Iowa child, but they can improve one of the largest aspects of their daily routines. It’s worth the time.

Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.