It is important for all of us, as citizens, to register and to vote in every election. The municipal elections in November typically receive the lowest turnout of any general election in the four-year cycle of elections even though the results have a significant impact on us all.
Local officials (county commissioners and several row officers), borough and township representatives, a variety of municipal and state judges, and school board directors are all on the ballot.
Of these, perhaps the candidates who will exert the greatest impact on our taxes, our property values and our communities are the individuals running for local school boards.
School board members are elected locally and are often thought of as local officials but are actually “officials of the state charged to carry out the Legislature’s educational mandates” (PA School Law Handbook, 1:13, 1992). School boards have the duty to maintain the schools in their district, levy school taxes, balance their budgets, adopt curriculum, adopt policies and hire personnel.
While school boards must comply with state and federal guidance and regulations regarding curriculum, local school boards set the policies by which the schools in their districts are governed. Within state guidelines, school boards can have a significant impact on the content of the curriculum and the choice of educational materials available to our students.
School boards also determine the district budget. The salaries of teachers, staff and the administration (including the superintendent), the construction and maintenance of school buildings and properties, educational materials and student transportation are all included in the budget expenditures. Other expenses, such as consultant and legal fees, also come from taxpayer dollars. The board determines the priority given to each category.
School board elections are intended to be nonpartisan, and school board candidates can run on both party tickets. School directors are unpaid volunteers who, ideally, put the welfare of all students first. But, of course, school boards are not free from controversy, some more than others.
It is the duty of each of our elected officials to represent the values of their community. But the only way those values can be measured is by informed voters going to the polls to vote for the candidates who reflect their values.
Every two years voters can have their say regarding the issues facing their districts and it is important for each of us to make our voice heard.
Students in our schools should receive an education that prepares them for their future, provides them with a safe learning environment, and respects their individuality and backgrounds. Schools should provide them with complete and accurate information so that they are ready to actively participate in our society and succeed as adults.
We, as parents, grandparents, residents, and community members need to feel confident that the individuals we select to serve in the important role of school director represent our values, whatever they may be. It is important that we, as voters, carefully evaluate the candidates running for positions on local school boards and understand their positions on issues. And it is important that we all vote.
On Oct. 3, at 7 p.m., the League of Women Voters of Bucks County is hosting a statewide webinar addressing the issues of censorship in schools. Information and registration can be found at www.LWVBucks.org.
In mid-October, you can learn more about the candidates running for school board in your district, by reviewing the Voters Guide in the Bucks County Herald, or by visiting www.Vote411.org.
To register to vote or to apply for a mail-in ballot, go to www.Vote.PA.gov. The registration deadline is Oct. 23.
Jean Weston is president of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, a non-partisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues. It envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.