School Board Elections - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: When are school board elections held?
A: This year, school election day is Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Regular school elections are held in odd-numbered years for each Iowa school district and community college on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Q: What are the qualifications to run for my local school board?
A: You must be a United States citizen, 18 years of age or older, a resident of the school district (and director district, if applicable) and eligible to register to vote.
Q: Can board members or school employees participate in the campaign process?
A: Yes, 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 School Board's Role in Ballot Issues.
Q: I missed my deadline to file for candidacy, what happens now?
A: You could become a write-in candidate. 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. If the individual meets the eligibility criteria and is willing to serve, then the individual is sworn in at the organizational meeting.
Q: Is there a vacancy if no one files papers AND there are no write-in candidates?
A: Yes. If no one files papers, there is no write-in candidate, or an individual written-in is unwilling to serve, the board declares the position vacant at the organizational meeting. The board must then fill the vacancy in accordance with law, which provides that the board has 30 days to appoint but they must provide notice that they intend to appoint and the community has the right to file a petition requiring the vacancy be filled by a special election.
Q: Can a person call the school district and ask for a list of interested candidates who have taken out and submitted papers?
A: Citizens can certainly call and ask for a list of interested candidates. However, the school is under no legal obligation to notify the caller of who requested nomination and petition papers; the schools may not even keep track of who requests them. The Secretary of State’s website also has the nomination papers and petition on its website, so someone could download and print off papers electronically and the school would never know they were running until they submitted papers to the board secretary on or before the filing deadline.
The submission of completed nomination papers with the appropriate signatures is different. The board secretary likely has a list of candidates who have submitted papers, as these papers will be forwarded to the controlling county election commissioner. If a member of the public called and asked, board secretaries would be able to disclose this information, as there is nothing in the law that would bar them from doing so.
Q: If a candidate’s spouse or family member works for the school district, can they still serve on the school board?
A: Yes. Iowa law does not prohibit a spouse or other family member of a school district employee from serving on a school board.
Q: Can a school employee run for the school board?
A: Yes. Yes. However, if elected, a school employee earning more than $6,000 per fiscal year from the school district (unless the contract is publicly bid in writing) would have to resign the position before serving on the school board. Iowa law prohibits board members from earning more than $6,000 in direct compensation from a school district per fiscal year.
I am a school employee of another district. Can I serve on my local school board?
Yes. A person may be an employee of another district or an area education agency and serve on their local school board.
Q: I’m newly elected—when do I take office?
A: The organizational meeting is to be held on or before the first regular meeting following the final canvass of votes. Check with your school district for a local meeting schedule.
I’m newly elected and can’t make it to the organizational meeting—is there another way to take the oath of office?
A: Yes—before the organizational meeting or long distance. Iowa Code 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 of votes and the end of the organizational meeting, date to be determined by your local school district. If the newly elected board member cannot be sworn in by the end of the organizational meeting, a vacancy is created. If you cannot take the oath of office at or before the organization meeting and need to be sworn in long distance, contact IASB or your board secretary to work through the provisions.
Q: Can districts use public funds to pay for board members-elect to attend training at the IASB Convention before they are seated at the organizational meeting?
A: Yes. This year school board elections change to November 5, 2019. The first canvass of votes will take place November 12-13, and the final canvass of votes will take place November 18-19. IASB’s 74th Annual Convention is held November 20-21, 2019. At the time of Convention, some newly elected board members will not have had the opportunity to take the oath of office at their organizational meeting. These board members-elect may still attend Convention and have their registration and travel fees paid by their school districts.
The following legal citations provide the basis for this authority:
Iowa Code 279.8 – Authorizes and directs that boards shall make rules for their own governance and for the governance of their directors and officers. Boards have significant latitude to determine their own governance practices and needs.
Iowa Code 279.38 – Authorizes boards to pay dues to become members of the Iowa Association of School Boards. The ability to attend IASB board development offerings is a benefit of membership in the association.
Iowa Code 274.3 – Provides boards with authority to exercise any broad and implied power not inconsistent with state laws and administrative rules. There is no law or administrative rule which restricts the ability of a board to provide education to incoming members before they are seated.
As with any expenditure, the board should be able to clearly state the public purpose for which the funds are used. IASB’s Annual Convention and pre-convention workshops provide two days of educational programming that support board members with the knowledge and skills necessary to oversee their districts in a responsible, legal manner. Topics include board roles and responsibilities, policy making, open meetings/public records, financial oversight, employee relations, school improvement/student learning issues, and others.
Q: While campaigning, I promised my neighbor that I would make it a priority to build a new football field. If elected, will I be able to follow through on this campaign promise?
A: IASB recommends that you carefully consider your campaign promises. As an individual, a board member has no authority. It’s only when a majority of the board takes action through a vote that the board’s authority is exercised. Remember—state your position on issues, but avoid making promises that you alone cannot keep.