Youth Mandate – The School Board Elections Toolkit: How young people can build power through school board elections for 501(c)(3) Organizations

  • Description

In the era of COVID-19 and following the 2020 wave of nationwide uprisings contesting white supremacy, United States politics have grown increasingly polarized at every level of government. Communities across the country are waging battles along partisan and ideological lines, from debates over public health measures, such as mask-wearing and vaccines, to whether to teach young people the truth about this country's legacy of enduring systemic racism or "critical race theory" and the need for police free schools. While there are limited opportunities for engagement on these issues at the national level, many community members have sought opportunities to engage in local politics. As a result, school boards – the most local and easily accessible form of government – have become sites of intense political and cultural debate.

Indeed, the country has seen a recent flurry of engagement in school board races and increased scrutiny over election outcomes. A recent analysis by Ballotpedia identified at least 84 attempted school board recalls against 215 board members in 2021 – a significant increase from any other year since at least 2009. However, while school board activity has intensified since 2020, local activism in school board politics is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1950s, school board politics have proven meaningful to Black and Brown communities as they organize to dismantle white supremacy and fight for education justice in their communities.

At this moment, with heightened levels of community engagement in school boards across the country, there are viable opportunities for young people, parents, and community members to participate in this critical site of local power and uplift their issues through the electoral process. The communities already building their participation in school board advocacy are demanding that school board members address how Black and Brown young people face harm in schools (including the racist and punitive school discipline policies and the presence of police and security in schools). They are calling on school board members to align with their bold vision for a liberatory education system based on inclusion, equity, and racial justice principles.