Elections Matter in Our Backyard
One thing that likely eludes most Arkansas voters? School board elections.
Former President Donald Trump mopped the floor in the Iowa caucuses, winning over his party rivals in a landslide within minutes of the voting.
While the mainstream media focuses on creating clicks and shares over national politics, South Arkansas Reckoning is focusing in on local politics.
School boards across Arkansas have more power and influence than Arkansans realize. We take a look at how school districts handle the elections of its board members.
Arkansas’ education budget is by far the most important portion of spent tax revenue.
In 2023, Governor Sarah Sanders’ LEARNS Act required school districts to pay teachers a minimum of $50,000 each. No doubt, that increase impacted schools’ budgets. Arkansas school districts already disperse hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the state every year.
Those dollars cover everything from fixing potholes in school parking lots to building luxurious sports complexes to repairing or replacing roofing systems on the people’s school buildings. Yes, tax payers own the school buildings.
School boards even decide when money is to be directed to consultants ranging from professional development to student behavior to hiring superintendents. The board decides how much to pay the head football coach and when to sell underutilized property. They even decide whether to indulge in the current trend of changing school calendars.
Arkansas voters have the opportunity to vote out school board members in peculiar ways. Unlike state and national elections, Arkansas lawmakers pass down the political power to the local level when it comes to school boards.
In each school district, the board of directors are tasked with the decision-making power to spend our tax dollars.
They also control what time of the year they hold elections. All too often the elections are held at odd times of the year.
Arkansas holds its presidential primary on March 5. Some Arkansas school districts are also holding elections for board members. What you may not even know was that a board position was open.
Filing deadlines quietly passed in November 2023. In all of those elections only those who knew the filing dates and that seats were open had the opportunity to file.
We cannot find a current online database to reference when each school holds its elections. Chances are if you live in rural Arkansas you have no media outlet reporting this valuable information.
School districts utilize their websites, social media and text alert systems to inform parents of upcoming events and general information. Rarely, if ever, will you see an advertisement for an upcoming election, much less the filing deadline or requirements to get on the ballot.
You will, however, likely see schools utilizing all of the above if they plan to ask voters for a millage increase. School board members can be seen almost daily on social media advocating for new facilities. Maybe your school board members want a new indoor facility for the football team. One thing is for sure, if a millage increase or facility upgrade is on their agenda, you will hear about it.
The 2023 Legislative Session
Arkansas lawmakers in 2023 passed Act 305, successfully eliminating write-in candidates for elections.
In order to be on the ballot for an upcoming school board election, you must now file a political practice’s pledge, an affidavit of eligibility and a petition with the county Board of Election Commissioners.
Arkansas Code 6-14-111(j)
“On the day after the deadline for candidates to file for position on the board of directors by petition, the county clerk of the county in which the school district is domiciled for Administrative purposes shall certify to the county board of election commissioners the names of those candidates who are registered voters in the school district and electoral zone, if applicable, and who have qualified for the ballot by petition.”
Arkansas Code 6-14-111 (1)
“(1) when a candidate has identified the position sought on the petition, the candidate shall not be allowed to change the position on that petition but may withdraw a petition and file a new petition designating a different position before the deadline for filling.”
Arkansas Code 7-5-205
Write-in candidates’ votes
No person shall file as a write-in candidate
No vote for a write-in candidate shall be counted
Local News Coverage, If Any
Most Arkansans have little access to news happening in their backyard.
South Arkansas Reckoning has received numerous tips from across the state. One thing we hear often is the need to replace long-term school board members for various reasons.
All school districts are governed by their own rules, and local decisions are made in the monthly school board meetings.
School boards have the power to decide when their elections are held.
Some choose odd numbered years, and those elections are held typically in May.
During even numbered years, concurrent with the presidential election, school board elections are held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.
For elections held concurrent with the Arkansas Governor’s election in even years, elections are on Tuesday, four weeks prior to the third Tuesday in June.
For districts with policies calling for fall elections during odd and even years, Election Day is the second Tuesday in November in odd years.
In even numbered years, elections are held the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November.
After a look into school board elections, it’s no wonder why community members around the state do not know when filing deadlines for school board elections occur.
Local school board members determine everything. To know, you have to attend your school board meetings and ask questions. If you have a school board that doesn't allow public input, contact your school’s superintendent.
School board vacancies
If a member of your local school board steps down or fails to complete their term, the remaining board members are delegated the authority to fill that position by a board appointed qualified person.
School Board Terms by Arkansas Code 6-13-608
“All members of a school district board of directors shall be elected to a term of office of not less than three (3) years nor more than five (5) years in length and with the expiration of such terms so arranged that, as nearly as possible, an equal number of positions are filled each year.
(b) Unless otherwise provided by law, members of a school district board of directors shall have terms of office of equal length.”
Arkansas parents concerned about their school districts have a right to know what is happening.
A phone call or email to your school district superintendent should be sufficient to obtaining all relevant information concerning school board elections.
South Arkansas Reckoning hopes this information helps community members throughout Arkansas understand how to be informed about the politics at their schools.
After all, a school board controls the local purse strings.
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