Tips for Advocating to Your Local School Board

Local school boards often are the most influential decision-making body affecting you child's education. They decide everything from what food is served at school lunch, to curriculum and graduation requirements, to where the new elementary school will be located. Although every school district and state is different, if you want to get a policy changed, your best bet is to start with your local school board. The following are useful tips for working with your school board.

School board members are volunteers. Most school board members are elected, but they serve without pay because they care about education, and support themselves with other work. In this sense, you are not their "boss." In your interactions with board members always be respectful and polite, even when you disagree with a decision they have made.

Know your facts. Think of yourself as a resource to board members in helping them make decisions. If you want the school board to make a change, prepare a fact sheet that uses relevant research and statistics to back up your position. Be prepared to address the arguments against your position. Board members will appreciate that you have taken the time to fully think out your request and provided them with additional information. Not knowing your facts or being misinformed about an issue will weaken your argument.

Build support. Nothing will make a stronger impact on a school board than a room full of people supporting your cause. Start by talking to parents and PTA members about your issue. Holding an organizing meeting with a small group of people who care deeply about your issue can be very helpful. Plan who will speak to board members and who will testify at school board meetings. Keep in mind that only a few people should testify; the rest of the supporters are there to be visible reinforcement.

Be persistent. The old saying that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" is very true when it comes to school boards. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. If your school board does not seem to be addressing your issue, continue to press them in a variety of ways. Start by getting a group of people to show up at every school board meeting to keep the pressure on to discuss your issue. If this tactic does not work, start informing the public about the situation with letters to the local media or door-to-door canvassing. When taking a more aggressive approach, remember that it is even more important to keep a respectful and positive tone. Never verbally attack a board member. That approach can only hurt your cause.

You can make a difference in your child's education by working with your school board. When parents get involved, everyone wins!

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