Plenty at Stake for Charter Schools in Upcoming Elections

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April 20, 2012 It makes a lot of sense to encourage your parents, administrators & teachers to get involved in the upcoming elections. Because many of our schools are 501(c)3 nonprofit corporations, it's important to be careful and not push those connected to your schools toward any particular candidates during your normal business hours. But there's plenty that can be done by educating folks on the election processes. This provides a better-educated and more engaged public on matters that impact your schools. Elections can provide volunteer opportunities to serve our communities and a great learning tool for students on how our communities work and how decisions are made.

Elections that will likely have the biggest influence on schools are the ones for the elected school district boards that your school is authorized by. Equally important are the county office of education and of course gubernatorial elections, since the Governor ultimately appoints the State Board of Education. Although there is not an election for Governor this year, the State Board of Education could potentially be the final step in the appeal process put in place for charters schools, if they are denied authorization by a school district or county office of education for a new school or a school that is renewing. Again there are tremendous benefits for educating your constituents of the election process and teaching folks of how those elections could have an effect on the future of your school.

Some important things to look for in school board elections are:

  • Are there any 'open seats' where no incumbents are running?
  • Are the races 'competitive,' where a candidate is challenging an incumbent?
  • Are trustees elected at large? Or by trustee area?

The biggest question for charter school stakeholders is, "Where do the candidates stand on issues you care about?" You can find out by searching your local newspaper, Googling the candidates' names or asking friends and neighbors. In some areas, charter school leaders are organizing non-partisan candidate forums so that parents, teachers and community members can meet the candidates and ask them questions directly. These type of events provide voters with important information about candidates and can be organized by our charter communities. Please contact me if you are interested in organizing a candidate forum for your area. For more information about voting and elections please visit the California Secretary of State website.

John Madrid
Regional Director, Central Valley