The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania holds elections for school board director each odd year, and all 500 school districts with the exception of Philadelphia elect either four or five new members in that cycle. This year, thousands of candidates are running for school board positions. While turnout in these off-cycle elections is often low, these races are at least as important as statewide elections.
Whether you have school-age children or not, school directors and their decisions impact all taxpayers. Elected board members in Pennsylvania hold a great deal of authority granted by the state constitution. Most importantly, they have the ability to raise your local taxes, something many citizens are unaware of. This particular authority is rather unique to Pennsylvania, as most states do not grant tax-raising ability to school directors.
School directors have many other responsibilities. One of the most crucial roles is to hire and supervise the superintendent. Each superintendent serves as the CEO for the district, implementing the plan and vision set by the board. The superintendent hires and supervises the principals and district administrative staff and sets the expectations for the entire school community.
Board members provide both support and supervision to the superintendent, and they consider differing viewpoints to ensure they are representing all their constituents. School directors have a variety of additional roles and responsibilities, including approval of the school calendar and the annual budget, and negotiating the contract with the teachers’ union.
These are all very important duties, especially when considering a school director is a volunteer position. Each board member has to run for election every four years and spends countless hours every month attending meetings, reviewing reports and information, and ultimately casting votes on a wide range of issues.
Some candidates run to help launch a political career, hoping to advance to higher office. Recently, more parents have jumped into school director races to address learning loss and other issues as result of Covid school closures. Every candidate has a different reason for running for this position.
Oftentimes, it is difficult to find information about school director candidates because they don’t typically have a team to manage their campaign. Last year, Broad + Liberty ran a nonpartisan candidate spotlight series to help educate voters about each candidate’s stance on certain issues. The popularity of the series is what inspired this school director series. Given the large number of candidates running, the format will be slightly different.
Each candidate has the opportunity to answer seven questions, which will be printed in their entirety with some minor editing as needed.
1. Candidate name, school district, region (if applicable), political party, and profession.
2. Why are you running for school board?
3. What are the most important issues facing your district?
4. What is your professional background/experience? What skills would you bring to the board?
5. Have you run for political office previously? Have you been politically active?
6. Are you running with other candidates?
7. What is the most important role of the school board in your opinion?
We contacted the Democratic and Republican committees in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties and asked them to share the questions with their school director candidates. Broad + Liberty will post the responses throughout the summer to assist voters in learning about the candidates running in their district. The series is open to any school director on the ballot in November. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @broadandliberty