Frequently Asked Questions, School Board Elections
Below are some common questions and answers regarding school board elections in Iowa.
When are elections held?
Regular school board elections will, starting in September 2009, be held in odd-numbered
years in each Iowa school district on the second Tuesday in September.
Who is eligible to run for a local school board?
Any person who is a United States citizen, 18 years of age or older, a resident of the school
district and is eligible to be registered to vote may become a candidate for the school board.
To what extent can board members or school employees participate in the election process?
None of those individuals lost their First Amendment rights when they were elected or hired. But, there are some restrictions, especially on what employees may do during work time or what board members may do in their official capacity. For more information, see the IASB Web site at: http://www.ia-sb.org/PolicyLegal.aspx?id=1258.
What happens if no one files papers?
Write-in candidates are still a possibility. Space must be provided on election ballots for write-in candidates. The write-in candidate is not required to file a nomination petition. IASB recommends that write-in candidates conduct public and open campaigns to make their views and positions known throughout the community before the election. If a write-in is elected, it must be determined whether the individual is willing and eligible to serve. Make sure they are eligible to be registered to vote, live in the director district, if appropriate, etc. If the individual meets the eligibility criteria and is willing to serve, then the individual is sworn in at the organizational meeting.
If there is no write-in or an individual written in is unwilling to serve, the board declares the position vacant at the organizational meeting. The board then has 30 days to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. An individual appointed then serves until the next school election.
Note: It's until the next school election, not board election. If there is an interim levy, bond issue, etc., election, then the position is placed on that ballot. The person elected then serves the remainder of the term. If no one is appointed within the 30 days, the board secretary declares a special election. The person elected at special election also serves the remainder of the term.
Board secretaries, please note: If you need to call a special election, please make sure you work with your auditor(s) before doing so to ensure the timing is correct in conjunction with other elections.
What happens if we find out one of our candidates doesn't live in the appropriate director district?
In school districts that are divided into director districts, the people in those seats must live in the district they represent. Candidates withdraw until August 4. If they miss this deadline, then the individual is not qualified to be sworn in, even if he or she gets the highest number of votes. The position does not go to the next highest vote getter. So, the board declares a vacancy. See previous question.
One of our candidates has a spouse who works for the school district. Can the candidate still serve on the school board?
Yes. Iowa law does not prohibit a spouse or other family member of a school district employee from serving on a school board.
Can a school employee run for the school board?
Iowa law prohibits board members from earning direct compensation from a school district of more than $2,500 per fiscal year. So, if elected, a school employee earning more than $2,500 per fiscal year from the school district would have to resign the position preferably before serving on the school board but no later than when the employee has earned $2,500.
(Note: Anyone who meets the other nomination requirements can run for the board; if elected, the conflict of interest has to be removed. Also, the restrictions apply only to the district for which the individual is serving as a board member. A person may be an employee of another district or an area education agency.)
We didn't have people run specifically for a two-year term (to fill a vacancy) as opposed to the regular four-year term. What do we do?
Contact your local auditor. What most have done is the highest vote-getter gets the longest term and there on down. But, that's not written in stone so check with your auditor as to the process.
What happens if the individual elected can't serve (due to death, decided didn't want it, etc.)?
The board then declares that seat to be vacant at the organizational meeting. See the Vacancy question above. The position does not go to the next highest vote-getter. You have to follow the positions certified by the county board of supervisors.
When will the canvass be complete?
The canvass is to be complete on Friday, September 11, 2009. At the organizational meeting, the board must officially receive the canvass. Make sure you work with your auditor before scheduling your organizational meeting the following week to ensure you will have the results of the canvass in a timely manner. Last year, a number of boards hadn't received the canvass results by the Monday after the election and had to postpone their organizational meeting.
When should we hold our organizational meeting?
By law, the organizational meeting is to be held at the first regular meeting following the canvass of votes. The law was changed years ago to move it from the Monday after the election to the first regular meeting following the canvass of votes so boards wouldn't have to hold a special meeting.
What if there isn’t a quorum to hold the organizational meeting?
(This can happen this year if districts don’t get write-ins.) Then the board secretary calls a special election for the vacant seats. The old board then carries over until a new one is elected. Iowa Code § 279.7.
What happens if a newly elected board member can't make it to the organizational meeting but needs to be sworn in?
Iowa Code § 277.28 states that a newly elected board member must take the oath of office at or before the organizational meeting. So, the board member can be sworn in anytime between the canvass and the end of the organizational meeting. If you still have an individual who can't make it any time, contact Mary Gannon to work through the provisions of swearing in an individual long distance. (She helped a school district swear in a man who was moose hunting in Canada, so it can be done.)
For other questions about school elections, contact Mary Gannon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can we help new board members be most effective?
Bringing new board members up to speed after they are elected is pivotal to the effectiveness of the board team. The IASB Web site offers practical tips for orienting new board members at http://www.ia-sb.org/BoardOperations.aspx?id=1078. In addition, IASB offers an orientation program for new board members through regional workshops. http://www.ia-sb.org/Training-Resources.aspx
For other questions about orienting new board members or board development programming, please call IASB at 1-800-795-4272.