With school board elections coming up soon, your PTA or PTA Council can be involved in the election by hosting a candidate forum or by publishing candidate answers to a set of questions. As noted last week, PTAs are allowed to conduct a candidate forum or provide educational material, just remember not to send materials announcing the forum or with the candidates’ answers home with children. National PTA and Nonprofit VOTE have also created a helpful guide on how to host a candidate forum.

As part of either a candidate forum or a candidate questionnaire, your PTA may be struggling with what questions to ask. For any question, it should be written in a non-partisan manner and not be leading towards a specific answer. Every candidate must be invited to participate in the forum or in the questionnaire; however, you do not need every candidate to attend the forum or answer the questionnaire. You should note that every candidate was given the opportunity to participate.

While some of your questions will focus on things specific to your school district and community, there are several larger issues that you might not think about asking a local candidate about. Note that you can find information on your district’s funding on the Illinois School Report Card, including the district’s adequacy level (tile on the main page) and per student funding at each school (School Finances under the District Environment menu or click the tile on the main page with per student spending). Here are some examples:

  • What are your priorities for federal funding the district receives from the CARES Act or other pandemic recovery funds?
  • What should the district be doing to support the social-emotional and mental health needs of students as we emerge from the pandemic? What should the district do regarding those issues for teachers and staff?
  • What would you see as your role as a school board member regarding state funding for the district?
  • What are your priorities for state funding from the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) formula?
  • [If your district has wide disparities in per student spending among school buildings] What should be done to address inequities in funding among different schools in the district?
  • The pandemic has highlighted many inequities in our society, and for schools, the digital divide has been a significant one. How should the district support students who may not have reliable internet or access to technology going forward?
  • What should the district do to ensure students are ready for college and careers when they graduate, especially with regards to issues that may have arisen from the pandemic?
  • How do you think the district has handled students with special needs during the pandemic, and what does the district need to do for those students going forward?

Hosting a candidate forum or publishing the answers from a candidate questionnaire is a good way to show your members that PTA is not about fundraising. It also shows your school board that families need to have a seat at the table and be involved in district decisions.

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