School board races in April 2023 are going to be critical for how education is shaped at the most local level in Illinois! In all districts aside from Chicago, local school board elections will be held this spring. Candidates must declare and file by Dec. 19, 2022. A number of right-wing “parent” groups funded by lots of dark money are hosting trainings around the state on how to run and win school board races, and it’s only just starting.
✶ Why should you care?
- These groups espouse an anti-LGBTQ + agenda
- These groups oppose teaching a full and accurate history for all students
- These groups have engaged in harassment of school board members and teachers
- These groups have pushed for book bans centered on race and gender
- These groups want sex education standards weakened dramatically
- These groups don’t represent the views of most parents yet they are organizing hard
This is about protecting all students in our schools and making sure we don’t erase students from marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ students and Black students and other students of color. The funders of these right-wing parent orgs are part of a national movement to discredit public education with a broader goal of privatizing the public ed system.
According to a report last month from PEN America, “America's Censored Classrooms,” 36 different states introduced 137 bills in 2022 restricting discussion and teaching of race, gender, sexuality, and US history. And these restrictions are happening at the local school district level as well. More than a hundred school boards around the country have passed resolutions directly restricting teaching about race (couched as “critical race theory”), and hundreds have dealt with organized attacks on curriculum, diversity and equity efforts, and more. PEN America’s school book ban tracker has more than 1500 instances over just a nine-month period in 2021-2022.
✶ What can you do?
Parents and community members can win against these efforts when they’re organized! Recently, parent groups have tried to ban books in Downers Grove and Barrington, among other places, and have lost—because parents, students and the community stood together to protect all students.
What else? Consider stepping up and running for your school board! Ask your friends, neighbors and family to get in the game if you think they might be willing to do this. We know that serving on a board is time consuming, and it requires a high-level of interest in school board policy and the ability to devote a certain number of hours a month. But it’s an important civic duty that we hope you consider! Candidate filings/petitions are due by Dec 19th; you can find all key dates for these elections here.
Through their policy and spending decisions, local boards can make a huge impact. We need school board members who will tackle the real problems schools face—lack of funding, mental health supports, services for students with disabilities, the teacher shortage—and are looking for solutions that can benefit all the students in a district.
✶ Resources on what you need to know about running for school board in IL
The Illinois Association of School Boards has a series of webinars instructing you on what steps you need to take to run! Videos of previous webinars are here. The next one is Wed. Dec 8th at 6:30pm. (They’ll be livestreamed and then the recording will be available afterwards.)
Questions this will help answer:
- What do I need to do to file to run?
- How to navigate petition filing?
- What qualifications should I have?
- What is the job description of a school board member?
More resources for candidates:
- Illinois Association of School Boards: Information for Candidates and School Board Primer
- Network for Public Education Action: Grassroots School Board Candidate Toolkit
- Run for Something: Phase 1: If You're Thinking About Running
- IEA - Winning at the Local Level handbook
- Leadership Institute training notes from September 2022
Policies and issues
- Resources Against Common False Narratives and Misinformation (Forest Hills Public Schools in MI)
- Long Island school board policy + issues
- IL-FPS - “Working towards Racially-Just Schools”
Still have questions? Get in touch - [email protected]