By Rony Baltazar-Lopez, Director of Policy and Communications at the Delaware Department of State
This op-ed was originally published on Hoy en Delaware.
A good education plays a crucial role in one’s future success.
Individuals with strong educational backgrounds are more likely to have good jobs with higher wages, which in turn leads to people living happier lives and generally improving the economy for everyone. It’s a trajectory we want to give to our youth, regardless of whether or not we have our own children, because making sure that all kids start their lives with a strong educational foundation benefits all of us.
The Role of School Boards
When considering who has the greatest impact on students, people often think about teachers and principals. Too often, school board members are forgotten. School boards oversee all the schools in their districts. From pre-K through high school, the decisions school boards make directly affect the education of thousands of students and will shape their futures immensely.
School boards also manage multimillion-dollar school district budgets and they decide how money and resources are allocated equitably across the district. They make sure schools have desks and chairs, playground equipment, and supplies for art classes. They hire district superintendents, who manage administrators and educators, and hold them accountable for student outcomes.
Setting School Policies
Over the last few years, fear and anger around race and gender ideas has led to many calls for book-banning and curriculum limitations in schools. School boards have the opportunity to stem this ongoing tide of censorship with educational policy setting. School not only teaches math and language arts, but science, history, and civics. Students, especially students of color, deserve an equal education. That includes being able to freely learn from the viewpoints and experiences of all marginalized groups, as well as being able to see their own experiences reflected in their lessons.
School boards also set general policy for their district, and one of the most important policies a school board should pursue is ensuring that schools are affirming of LGBTQ+ and transgender students. These students often face higher rates of bullying and are at a greater risk of self-harm and suicide. School boards should be creating policies that allow students to be their true, authentic selves. After all, every student deserves to be safe and seen in their school.
The public gets to vote on who sits on school boards, and voting in these elections is one of the best ways a person can improve their community. This year, Delaware school board elections are Tuesday May 9th.
The 2023 School Board Elections
This year election day is Tuesday, March 9th and polls are open from 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. There are school board elections going on all across the state and if you’re eligible to vote—over 18, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the school district—then go vote! You don’t have to be registered to vote in school board elections. Voters can either vote in person at any of the polling places locations in their district or can vote absentee, if eligible.
It’s important that people educate themselves on their candidates and feel informed when they cast their ballots. When considering who is qualified to be a school board member, voters should look for candidates who:
- Speak up and show up on behalf of students and their outcomes;
- Are intentional with diversity, inclusion, and equity;
- and are strategic, innovative, and courageous thinkers.
Beside these important qualities, it’s important to know where candidates stand on key issues. When stepping into the voting booth, voters should feel that they know where their candidates stand on the key issues facing schools today and have a plan for addressing them. Voters should feel confident that their preferred candidates are focused on students, not playing politics, because their decisions have such long lasting effects.
To learn more about the candidates and how to vote, visit VoteDelaware.org.