Here are some suggested questions to ask candidates running for school board - or would-be superintendents - in your public school district. State laws and district practices vary, so not all questions will be relevant in every district.
Fiscal and Personnel Issues
- Do you plan to support a tax increase?
- Can you think of any district expenses that should be cut?
- Would you support suing the state for more money as hundreds of school districts have done or threatened to do in about half the states?
- Do you support retaining teacher tenure rules that make it nearly impossible to fire teachers?
- Do you support merit pay for teachers?
- Do you support market-based incentives to make it easier to hire teachers for hard-to-fill positions such as in math and science? Or do you think math and science teachers should be paid the same amount as gym teachers?
- Would you rather hire a teacher with an education degree or one with a degree in the subject he or she will teach?
- Are you in favor of phonics or whole-language instruction for reading in elementary school?
- Will you insist that elementary schools drill students in math facts, multiplication tables and long division, or will you let them rely on calculators to do arithmetic for them?
- Do you support grouping students by ability in classes as is commonly done on sports teams?
- Will you demand sanctions for teachers who use the classroom for electioneering purposes?
- Do you think sex education courses should encourage abstinence until marriage? Should they include demonstrations on how to put on a condom?
- Will you permit programs that advocate same-sex marriage?
- Are you open to forming a parental task force to review books assigned to children or purchased by school libraries and advise principals whether the books are appropriate? Will you allow interested parents to review curricular materials in advance of their use by schoolchildren?
- Do you like spelling bees, or do you think competition is unhealthy?
- What is your position on social promotion? On allowing bright children to skip grades?
- Are you in favor of zero-tolerance policies even if they mean that students with hunting guns in their car trunks must be expelled? Or that girls taking pain relievers for cramps without going through the nurse must be suspended?
- Do you believe police officers should be used to handcuff and arrest very young children who are unruly? Or use a stun gun?
- Do you think our schools have enough recesses and allow enough physical activity so that kids can let off steam?
- What security measures do you support to keep students and teachers safe from attacks by other students?
- Will you allow nosy questionnaires to be given to children without prior parental consent?
- Will you ask schools to obtain prior parental consent before releasing children for off-campus medical services? Before conducting mental health screening?
- Do you think it is a proper function of schools to expose students to Channel One's racy television programming and corporate ads for junk foods and medications?
- Will you push for a policy against requiring parents to put their children on Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs?
- Are you open to online schooling options?
- Are you open to participation by homeschoolers in school activities?
- What is your position on singing or playing Christmas carols at school events?
- Will you require principals to enforce students' constitutional rights to pray or raise religious viewpoints?