(This article originally appeared in Focus on the Family Citizen magazine, April 2003 Issue)
About 47 million American children attend public schools. As a Christian, you have an opportunity to influence what those children learn about such topics as sexuality and the origin of life by running for your local school board. Here’s how.
Step 1: Prepare
First, call your county elections office to find out the candidate filing deadline—but don’t sign on the dotted line yet! Many first-time candidates don’t allow enough time to prepare, says Matt Lewis, grassroots director for The Leadership Institute, which provides nationwide training schools for conservative candidates: “People on our side get involved because they care deeply and passionately about the issues … but they don’t realize they are running against a political machine”—i.e., the education bureaucracy. So allow up to two years be- fore the filing date, and spend that time:
- Attend school board meetings; ask to be mailed agendas and
- Volunteer for board committees that handle topics like textbooks, sex education and
- Attend candidate school (see inset, above). To Lear more about candidate schools, visit: LeadershipInstitute.org
Richard Neill, D.S., a pro-family activist who just completed a four-year term on the Texas State Board of Education, says it’s helpful to identify:
Potential Donors. You can do this by reviewing other conservative candidates’ contribution records to find out who funds their campaigns. Your state ethics commission or the county election office can provide this information. (Before mailing to campaign contribution lists, make sure it’s legal in your )
Future Endorsers. Collect campaign literature to learn which community leaders endorse pro-family candidates. Then get to know those leaders so it won’t be awkward when you ask for their support.
Step 2: Network
Defuse future political attacks by building relationships now, advises Mike Spense, a pro-life leader who won a school board seat in one of California’s Democratic districts (West Covina) “If you’re active in the community, it’s harder for people to pigeonhole you as ‘the book burner’ or some other label.”
- Community Leaders. [Contact Community leaders,] including members of the school board, teachers union, chamber of commerce and city council. Helping local officials run for re-election is a great way to get acquainted and also get free political experience.
- Grassroots Activists. Identify one contact in each precinct to help with door-to-door campaigning and posting yard signs. Also meet with leaders of Christian activist groups.
Step 3: Campaign
- Choose three to four simple points like “lower taxes” or “parental control” and develop concise quotes or sound bites on each of those issues.
- Remember the audience that isn’t visible. You may be debating candidates before just 10 people, but your real audience “is the 100,000 people reading the newspaper,” explains Lewis.
- Avoid being stereotyped as a single-issue candidate by addressing a broad range of issues.
MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN
Because local school board elections have some of the lowest voter turnouts, name recognition can make the difference between winning or losing. Linda Naylor, a Frederick, Md., CPA, and stay-at-home mom who beat five opponents in her first school board race, offers these cost-efficient tips:
- Wave campaign signs during rush
- Send a hand-addressed mailing to people who voted in the last two
- Walk door to door and introduce
ASK FOR ASSISTANCE
Now’s the time those relationships you’ve been building can bear fruit. So don’t be bashful about asking for contributions. “You have to understand that you are not asking somebody to put money in your pocket; you are asking them to invest in changing society, advises Lewis. After all, “If good men and women of faith don’t get involved in leadership and in politics, then who’s going to be left to run things?”