Voter IQ: What is a school board and how are members elected?

There’s increasing attention over school policies regarding masks and other COVID-19 issues. Those policies and issues are decided by school boards.

But what is a school board and how are these boards elected? We asked Steven Chapman, the president of the Arizona School Board Association.

A school board has various responsibilities. They set budget priorities, approving the budget, evaluating the superintendent. They are essentially like a “legislative branch for a public school district.”

A typical school board has about three to five serving members.

Just like “your state legislators, we go around, get signatures, we put our name on the ballot and we ask our community neighbors to vote for us every four years,” said Chapman.

Qualifications included in running for your local school board is if “you are eligible and registered to vote…And you’re 18 years old, you live in your district. You can run to be a school board member in that community.”

Due to the pandemic, schools transitioned to online learning. So, what role did school boards play in this transition?

Last March, school boards “were the ones that kind of took the role on closing in person instruction and moving to online instruction before the state even decided to provide those orders,” said Chapman. One of the governing board’s top priorities is “always student and staff safety.”

Reopening of schools has become a district to district decision and that’s where the three to five board member votes come in.

Chapman said, “there are school districts that are voting 3-2 on opening or 3-2 on staying online because we’re trying to hear all of our parents and students and staff needs, and there isn’t tons of support from the state and federal level.”

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Steven Chapman, Arizona School Board Association

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