The Kansas Constitution makes public education a state responsibility while at the same time providing for the operation of public schools by local school boards elected by citizens of the school district. Each board consists of seven members. The only exception is Fort Leavenworth USD 207. As a military base school system, the district serves only kindergarten through ninth grade students, and the governing board is composed of three residents of the base appointed by the commanding officer of Fort Leavenworth.
Close to 2,000 men and women guide Kansas public schools systems, employing more than 70,000 Kansans and serving nearly 500,000 children. Board members receive no pay for their service, only the satisfaction that comes from providing an indispensable public service!
The mission of the public school is to educate each child to their fullest potential. The local school board, an integral part of the American institution of representative government, acts on behalf of the people of each community to translate that education mission into reality.
In 2015, the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2104, changing local election dates, including the dates for local school board elections. Previously school board general elections were held in the spring of odd-numbered years.
The new law requires these elections to be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years. If necessary, primary elections will be held on the first Tuesday in August of odd numbered years. November 2017 was the first election under the new law.
KASB encourages current board members to seek another term. Your experience makes you an invaluable asset to your community. KASB also encourages other committed, visionary community members to seek election and serve in this important voluntary role in your community!
Every school district in Kansas is governed by a locally-elected board of education. In fact, school board members as a whole comprise the largest body of elected officials in our country. The qualifications for effective service as a board member are many, even though the actual legal requirements are few!
School board members must be registered voters in the school district and cannot be an employee of the board on which they are a member. If board members are elected from certain areas of the district rather than at-large, they must live in the area of the district from which they are seeking office. School board members serve staggered four-year terms, so the entire board is not up for election at the same time.
School board elections are held the first Tuesday in November of each odd-numbered year. A primary election must be conducted if more than three people file for the same school board position. Newly elected board members take office the second Monday in January following the election.
To accomplish the mission and goals of the school district, it is very important for you to work as a team member and cooperate with other board members. Decision-making authority is vested in the board of education, not in individual members.
The locally-elected school board is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining, developing and operating local schools. School board members make important decisions with long-lasting implications for their community and its citizens. They establish a vision for the public education system in their community, are responsible for hiring and evaluating the superintendent of schools, adopt policies and monitor district finances, among other responsibilities.
Setting a vision is not just another way of saying “goal setting” or “long-range planning.” The word comes from the Latin videre, which means “to see,” and a vision for a school district should, in fact, give people another way to see their schools, clearly showing the district not only as it is, but also what it might become.
As a school board member, you will have a central role in defining your district’s vision, but yours should not be the only viewpoint considered. Teachers, administrators, community members and students are more likely to support the board’s vision if they feel they have played a part in developing it.
The process of creating a vision involves making choices, not only about where the district is headed, but also about how it will get there. For this reason, establishing a vision may be the most difficult responsibility any school board faces. But it is also perhaps the most important.
Specific responsibilities for school board members include:
Because the day-to-day operation of the district is the superintendent’s responsibility, selecting and retaining the right superintendent of schools for the district is a critical board decision. Hiring the right superintendent can mean having a school system in which children learn, administrators and teachers work together harmoniously and parents are satisfied and supportive.
Perhaps no single decision a board makes has more impact than the selection of the superintendent.
The board must also put in place an organizational framework that can allow the district to achieve its vision. School boards are responsible for providing a planning, policy and management structure that reflects local expectations and circumstances. This begins by employing a superintendent, adopting missions and goals in harmony with its vision through a strategic planning process, developing and approving policies, formulating budgets and setting high instructional standards for students and staff.
The board must create an environment in the school system that encourages innovation and supports staff members in a process of continuous improvement of education.
Specific responsibilities for school board members include:
While it has been said the board makes policy and the superintendent administers it, the exact line between policy and administration is a fine one. Typically, a superintendent recommends a particular policy to the board, and the board considers it. They then accept, modify or reject the recommendation. Once a policy is adopted by the board, the superintendent is responsible for implementing the policy.
The board and individual board members should refrain from becoming involved in the day-to-day operation of the schools. Kansas law states the superintendent manages the district on a day to day basis, subject to the rules and regulations set by the board of education.
With the exception of Fort Leavenworth USD 207, all Kansas school boards consist of seven elected members, and all unified school districts are responsible for the education of children in grades kindergarten through 12. Increasing numbers of school districts are involved in early childhood and adult education programs as well. Many school districts are also members of interlocal cooperatives or service centers. These cooperatives, whose governing bodies consist of local board members from participating school districts, provide services ranging from group purchasing to special education.
The Fort Leavenworth schools operate with two major differences compared to other Kansas districts. The district only serves grades K-9, and the board is composed of three residents of the base appointed by the commanding officer of Fort Leavenworth.
The genius of America’s education system is that local boards are directly accountable to the communities they serve.
Effective boards engage in continuous assessment of all conditions affecting education.
These should include:
A comprehensive accountability system can improve the effectiveness of schools by keeping the primary focus on student achievement and on what can and should be done to improve that achievement.
Specific responsibilities for school boards include:
Our public schools are about preparing students for the future. Our students must be prepared to compete on a global economic field and this means we must continue to improve student achievement. Boards of education need to work within the framework of a continuous improvement model to make sure our schools are preparing every student to succeed. Goal setting is an important part of that process.
Boards must work with administrators, teachers and the community to set district goals. Board decisions should logically follow from board goals and objectives. The board should also establish procedures to annually evaluate the progress of the district.
The Kansas State Department of Education monitors and accredits schools in Kansas using Kansas Education System Accreditation (KESA).
School boards serve as the leading advocate on behalf of students and their schools in the community. Both individually and collectively, school board members need to remain informed of issues at the local, state and national levels. In a time when children come to school with more challenges than ever before, schools acknowledge they cannot meet all these needs alone. Instead, they collaborate with families, community organizations and other public and private agencies to benefit both the children and the community they serve.
As a result, the advocacy role is increasingly important for school board members. Informing citizens about the schools’ accomplishments, challenges and needs is an essential part of school board leadership. Through their actions, board members represent the community and help foster understanding and support for the schools.
Specific responsibilities for school boards include:
These responsibilities mean school boards cannot work in isolation. They must bring together the entire community (parents, community groups and others concerned about education) in effective and responsible ways to initiate and sustain lasting school improvement.
There are two ways to file as a candidate for election. The first is to file a declaration of intention to become a candidate and to pay a $20 filing fee to the county election officer of the county in which the district is located. A person may also become a candidate by filing a petition with the county election officer. The petition must contain signatures of 50 registered voters residing in the member district or geographic area from which the board member is to be elected or (with the exception of individuals running for at-large positions) 10 percent of such electors, whichever is less. No candidate may withdraw their candidacy after the filing deadline.
Additional information may be found here: Kansas Secretary of State (Election Information/Filing Forms)
The voting plan to elect members varies among school districts. In some districts, all board members are elected at-large by the citizens of the district. In other school districts, some members are elected from certain areas of the district, and other board members are elected at-large. Contact your local county election office or school district superintendent if you need further information about the voting plan in your district.
Changes in the local method of election and/or voting plan may be made between the first Wednesday in November of an even-numbered year and ending the first Tuesday in June of odd-numbered year if the change is also approved in an election before the end of the period.
Most candidates for school board generally do not spend large amounts of money or accept large contributions. However, they have responsibilities under Kansas campaign finance laws.
If a candidate intends to spend a total amount or value of less than $1,000 in either the primary or general election, he or she must file an affidavit stating that intent with the county election officer of their home county, usually the county clerk. That affidavit also notes he or she intends to receive contributions of an amount or value of less than $1,000. The affidavit must be filed no later than nine days prior to the primary election.
If he or she has signed such an affidavit and incurs expenses, exclusive of their filing fee, in excess of $1,000 or receives contributions in excess of $1,000 for either the primary or the general election, the candidate must file a more detailed report.
This report must be filed with the county election officer within 30 days after the primary and general election. It includes an itemized statement of all expenditures the candidate made or obligations contracted or incurred in connection with the primary and general election.
The report also needs to include the name and address of each person who contributed more than $50 with the amount and date of the contribution. These obligations also apply to a person who is working on behalf of a candidate. Please note candidates for Wichita USD 259 have unique standards and a different timeline for filing reports as described in K.S.A. 25-4148.
Candidates also have to file a statement of substantial interest. It must be filed within 10 days of the filing deadline and is filed where the declaration of candidacy was filed. The statement details business holdings that may cause a successful candidate to be required to declare a conflict of interest on a board motion.
Winning candidates need to have on file with the county election officer the oath of office within 10 days of the election or not later than five days after the issuance of the certificate of election, whichever is later.
Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution gives the State Legislature responsibility to “make suitable provision for finance” of public education, which means the state has the primary role in school funding. The Legislature determines what ability local boards have to raise local revenues. The Legislature also may enact laws concerning local boards and districts in their role as local governments and employers, including requirements for programs and services and the rights of students, employees and citizens.
Under the Kansas Constitution, the Kansas State Board of Education has the power of “general supervision” over school districts and approves most of the regulations that govern the day-to-day operation of school programs. Few people know or work closely with their elected representative on the state board. Being an effective advocate for your school requires interaction with your state board member.
The State Board of Education monitors the progress of schools towards the state level vision and definition of a successful high school through the accreditation process, KESA (Kansas Educations Systems Accreditation).
The combination of a clear vision for the state’s schools, definition of a successful high school graduate, and the accreditation process provide local school boards with minimum standards to strive for as they govern their school district.
At the federal level, Congress reauthorized the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2015 and renamed it ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). This legislation traces its origins to 1965 as part of the larger civil rights movement. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the previous reauthorization of ESEA adopted in 2001.
The original intent of ESEA in 1965 was to increase educational opportunities for all students. The focus was to provide federal assistance to school districts serving low-income students, assistance for the education of students with disabilities, and provide resources for state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education. The spirit of the original act is still present in the most recent reauthorization of this legislation.
The federal focus includes the following areas:
The federal influence on local school board is often reflected in policies and procedures developed locally in response to accountability connected federal resources. These federal funds flow through the state department of education.