There is a current trend where newly elected school board members, who were chosen to affect change in their schools are being accused of partisan politics.
The accusations is usually made by other board members, the administration, or external groups in an attempt to manipulate or silence. Many are confused by these terms as well as the limitations that may or may not be placed on members of a school board. Lets begin with a few definitions, as this is primarily what is causing the confusion. (While the opinions expressed below are accurate to the best of our ability, local school board members may want to speak with an attorney about particular issues.)
Nonpartisan - With respect to school board members, what does it mean to be non-partisan?
To be non-partisan with respect to school board members means that they do not identify with or are not controlled by any political party or special interest group. However, many school board members, during their candidacy, were supported by political parties and special interest groups (e.g. Teachers Union or Parent's Group). In non-partisan school board elections, candidates do not run under a political party and their party affiliation is not identified on the ballot. This is done to ensure that school board members are elected based on their qualifications, experience, and commitment to education, rather than their political affiliation.
Political Party Donations - Can a non-partisan school board candidate accept money from a political party in Michigan?
According to the Michigan Secretary of State, a candidate for school board position in Michigan cannot accept money from political parties if they are nominated by the political party and placed on the general election ballot. However, if the candidate is not nominated by the political party and is running without political party affiliation, they are not subject to the filing requirements of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. Therefore, a non-partisan school board candidate in Michigan can accept money from political parties only if they are not nominated by the political party and are running without political party affiliation. It is important to note that most states, including Michigan, do not allow party labels in school board races.
Political - With respect to school board members, are they prohibited from being political?
Most states do not allow party labels in school board races, and school board members are expected to be non-partisan. However, political parties or partisan officeholders often make endorsements or financial contributions to school board candidates. In some states, there have been efforts to change the non-partisan status of school board races and allow candidates to run under a political affiliation. By the very nature of running in an election, every school board member has entered the political world so any accusations that a school board member is political is ridiculous, as all are political.
Censorship - Must a school board member suppress his/her political views while serving on the board?
The answer to this question is straightforward but may depend on the specific circumstances and expectations of the school board member's role and needs of the school district. Here are some key points to consider:
School board members may hold political views and opinions and they are NOT prohibited from being political in their role as a school board member..
In some states, there have been efforts to change the non-partisan status of school board races and allow candidates to run under a political affiliation.
Ultimately, whether a school board member must suppress their political views while serving on the board may depend on the expectations of the community and the particular needs of the school district.