Serving as a board member involves a great deal of information-gathering and decision-making. Whether you are a relatively new board member or one with many years under your belt, you are faced with competing data, interests, values, beliefs and ultimately the responsibility for weighing all of them to make a decision in the best interest of all of your district’s students. Most of the issues you consider are local ones.
Not only do you need to weigh in on local educational issues, as you expect to, but at this time of year you receive requests to take a position on state and national issues and proposals. Your status as a locally elected leader puts you in a position where your statements, your views, and your endorsement of positions and proposals carry a great deal of weight.
The OSBA Board of Directors will take positions on proposed Oregon ballot initiatives in June, after signatures have been gathered and the petitions have qualified for the ballot. As your statewide voice and representation it is appropriate that we do so. As a local board and board member you may choose to not take positions on statewide and national issues where they may be divisive for your community and are not decisions under your control, or you may choose to endorse proposals. It is up to you.
Primary questions to ask when looking at new legislation of any kind, including ballot initiatives are:
Does this proposal maintain or enhance local control and decision-making by local school boards, or does it constrain boards in their decisions now or in the future?
Does this proposal mandate actions by your district that will take resources away from currently successful programs?
What is the funding source and will it grow with the proposal’s service needs over time? Does the funding take away from currently funded services, educational or otherwise?
What are the long-term consequences of this proposal on public education, social services, jobs and other state issues that impact all of us?
What does the data say about the efficacy of this proposal and its impact on public education?
Take a look at the range of districts and schools in Oregon – does the proposal work for all, or some better than others? How does it impact your district? Remember that the impact on other districts can come back to impact funding, constraints and requirements for your district in the future.
Boards may choose to discuss and vote to take positions on statewide issues, but it is not required to take positions. If you choose to weigh in on proposals as an individual board member, be sure to state that you are not representing your board or district but are only speaking as an individual. It is always best to carefully consider both sides of any argument and be familiar with the opposition. That way you are not surprised by facts or opinions you were unaware of after you have publicly taken a position.