Campaigning for School Board Trustee

Michael Rochholz

By Michael J. Rochholz, MASB Vice President

DashBoard, June 21, 2016

So you’ve decided to run for your local school board and have filed the required documents. Running for school board is slightly different than running for other local offices. Campaign spending is generally less, and the time for campaigning can be much less than campaigning for other offices, as there is no Primary Election, only a General Election in November of even years.

Before you launch yourself into a campaign, make sure you determine your campaign budget, and you’ll want to determine your requirements under the Campaign Finance Act. If you’re running in a school district with less than 2,400 students, you won’t have to report any of your fundraising or expenses, as long as you don’t receive or spend more than $1,000 for the election. But you still have to track them.

After your budget is defined, you will need to determine how to raise enough money to run your campaign. Costs may range from zero to thousands of dollars, depending on the district size and individual race. Once you determine your overall campaign costs, then you can start to raise money. Every campaign will fund their efforts differently. Some campaigns are fully self-funded, while others may be grassroots-funded by others.

Some school districts may hold candidate debates. If your school system or community holds debates, learn the issues that face the school district and practice answering questions with friends or family. Let them challenge your arguments and practice your facts until you know them confidently. Research and accurate facts are important. You should know enough to argue both sides of a topic. Learn your weaknesses and those of your opponent(s).

Now it’s time to announce your campaign! At this point, you will need to distribute your campaign materials. Yard signs can be placed in supporter’s yards (insure you have the owner’s permission). Brochures can be distributed or mailed. You can begin door-to-door canvassing as well. If you speak with parents or distribute campaign literature at a school event or function, you should get permission from the school district beforehand.

You can also campaign online—this is a growing trend for many political candidates. A campaign website can provide the means to promote fundraising events or even take online donations. A campaign website can be used to keep in touch with supporters and send voting reminders before Election Day. School board candidates can also connect with others through social media. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular social media platforms for attracting support and getting the message out.

As the days count down, increase your voter contact through existing communication channels. This may include sending another mailing, increasing the frequency of email/text messaging and social media updates. Supporters follow your campaign differently, so similar updates can be made across different channels.

Because of the unique situation of school board trustee elections, the winner is often the person who can get more people to the polls. That requires getting your supporters motivated enough to go out on Election Day and actually cast a vote. Good luck with your campaign!

The Get on Board campaign is underway and we need your help! Resources have been posted on the MASB website and the list will continue to grow up until the filing deadline of July 26. There are materials on how to recruit, what makes an effective board member and even videos to help spark interest. Our Candidate’s Guide to School Board Elections also is available for purchase in our Online Store. Please encourage those you think would be a good fit for school board service to Get on Board!

Read More DashBoard Articles