What you need to know about school board elections

The General Election is Tuesday, November 7. This year some of the most important elections are also the most local – the elections for school board directors.

School boards wield a considerable amount of power. They create budgets, levy taxes, and oversee school administrators and the education of our children. Despite the power and responsibility, school board directors serve as unpaid volunteers. School board directors are elected by their communities. These elections are as local as it gets with our civic minded neighbors stepping up to do this important job.

Pennsylvania is a “closed primary” state. This means that if you are a Democrat, you may vote only for Democratic candidates, and if you are a Republican, you may vote only for Republicans. Independents are not eligible to vote in primary elections. 

In order to minimize partisan political interference in school board and judgeship elections, Pennsylvania law allows candidates for school board and judges to file on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, a process called “cross-filing”. School board directors’ primary focus must be on ensuring a quality education for our children, not partisan politics or ideology, and judges must be above influence by partisan politics.

Unfortunately, that has changed. Republicans see school board races as a way to take back power in areas which have shifted toward the Democrats in the past eight years. Right-leaning groups are spending millions on candidates who promise to scale back teachings on race, remove offending books from libraries, attack LGBTQ students and teachers, and impose their own religious and ideological views on our schools – the most important institution in our communities. Candidates with this agenda are running in almost all of our local school districts, and many of them have signaled their partisan agenda by not cross-filing and declaring themselves to be conservatives pushing a conservative ideology.