School board elections matter now more than ever

School board elections matter now more than ever

There have always been good reasons to vote in school board elections.

But as the state invests more of our tax dollars into schools than ever, and as issues regarding schools have gone beyond traditional discussions of curriculum into safety, mental health and politics, it’s more vital than ever that citizens pay attention to their school elections, become familiar with the candidates just as they would any other elections, and make plans to vote on Tuesday.


Even if you don’t have kids in school or care about local education, you probably care about your bank account. And that means you care how your money is being spent and what you’re getting for your investment.

New York state’s new budget includes an additional $3 billion in state aid for 2023-24, to a record $34.5 billion and keeping New York far away the highest spender in the nation on per-pupil education.
Included in the $34.5 billion is $24 billion to fully fund Foundation Aid, which is designed to help address socio-economic factors to ensure that poor districts and those in minority communities have adequate funding to meet students’ basic educational needs. The $24 billion represents a $2.6 billion increase over last year.

The budget also $1.2 billion for pre-kindergarten programs, $134 million to incentivize districts to offer breakfast and lunch to underprivileged students, $10 million to promote job readiness through college, and expansion of charter schools.

You’re paying for all that through state income and sales tax, and other sources like lottery revenue.

So don’t be fooled when your local property tax bill increases only slightly under the tax cap. And when a district tells you a capital project or other major purchase is fully funded and will have no impact on your property taxes, realize that a lot of that money is federal or state tax money, and some might be from local rainy-day accounts into which you’ve already paid. So you’re still investing a lot of your tax dollars in schools, and therefore you have a major stake in how school boards are spending it.


Look at the results of your investment. Despite spending a nation-high $25,519 per pupil in 2022 (nearly $12,000 above the national average), New York doesn’t rank highest in educational outcomes and other measures as one would expect. According to the college scholarship resource Scholaroo, the state ranks fourth in school quality, 13th in student success and 23rd in student safety. New York ranked ninth in education in a US News & World Report survey and 22nd in a Forbes ranking that placed the state 24th in terms of quality and 12th in safety. Education Week’s K-12 Achievement Index in Quality Counts for 2021 gave New York a grade of C based on such factors as elementary reading and mathematics achievement, high school graduation rates and adult educational attainment.

There are certainly other ways to measure the value of your education dollars that aren’t statistical, such as the quality of programs to help students with social and emotional issues, counseling, vocational programs and overall class offerings. And of course, the results differ from district to district, so check your individual district’s performance for comparison.

Look at these many factors when evaluating budgets and school board candidates.


In the past, evaluating school board candidates was simpler than it is today: Were the candidates involved in the school? Did they have kids in the district? Did they generally support teachers and the child’s well-being?

But no longer are school districts as isolated from real world issues, whether it be school safety in the wake of an increase in mass shootings, political issues over critical race theory and how deeply schools expose the darker periods of American history, or the appropriateness of the books students are exposed to and whether some people find them offensive or potentially harmful.

Politicians in some communities are endorsing school board candidates in races that have traditionally been immune from overt political influence. Some candidates are running on loosely defined and vaguely articulated “parents rights” platforms, accusing opponents of “woke” agendas and “grooming” if they support LGBTQ+ rights. Their opponents are running against them alleging they support censorship or bigotry.

The issue over public safety in schools and the placement of school resource officers might be rooted in a strong position on the highly politicized issue of Second Amendment rights. Ask candidates who are paying for their campaigns to get an idea of ​​how they’ll use their influence once elected to the school board.

Citizens can continue to treat school elections as if they’re not real elections and stay home.

Or they can recognize that the stakes in school board races and the budget votes are higher today than ever and vote.

Take the time to learn about candidates and their positions, review information about budgets, and make yourself aware of the significant financial and social impact of school elections.

Sitting on the sidelines and letting others make the decisions for you is no longer a legitimate option.


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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion