Why Should You Engage?
School boards have power over all the issues you care about. You have a local board of trustees and a State Board of Education member who represent you—who work for you. That means students have power to make change on everything from racial justice to health to gun violence prevention and more.
Funding Our Education
Everyone deserves resources for a quality education. Many elected officials determine the school budget:
The Texas Legislature writes the statewide budget, which the Governor signs. 92% of all Texas public education funding is determined at the state level!
Your school board is funded by this state budget, as well as from the federal government and local property taxes. Your district school board must propose a new budget every summer based on this funding. They hold hearings during this process, where you can speak up for the resources you need! That can include building renovations, extracurricular equipment, school counselors, and more.
What’s Local and What’s State?
State Board of Education
The SBOE sets policies that affect all Texas public schools. This includes graduation requirements, curriculum standards, and use of the Texas Permanent School Fund that helps fund every public school. All 15 members are elected, with one member appointed Chair by the Texas Governor. These are unpaid positions with no term limits.
Local School Boards
Every school district has a local school board that sets district policies and works with the superintendent. Texas gives a lot of power to local boards to set goals and priorities for students, adopt policies, hire and evaluate the superintendent, adopt a budget, and set local tax rates. Every board member/trustee is elected. A school board has 7 or 9 trustees depending on the district. These are unpaid positions with no term limits.
How the SBOE Affects…
Your State Board of Education sets the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for subjects including health education. Last year, advocates successfully pushed the SBOE to adopt new standards that expand discussions about contraception and healthy relationships. However, the SBOE refused to include LGBTQ+ sexuality and relationships in these standards.
The SBOE can integrate social and emotional learning standards into all subjects to support student mental health.
The SBOE sets the science curriculum standards that determine what students in every Texas district will learn about climate change.
The SBOE members we elect this fall will be rewriting the state social studies TEKS (after recently bowing to political pressure to delay the process). Students, parents, and teachers continue speaking up about the importance of an honest and accurate education.
The process to update the social studies standards is a key opportunity to support civic education by educating teachers about voter registration, including examples of historical civic engagement, and developing students’ civic skills and knowledge.
Currently the SBOE does not include LGBTQ+ sexuality and relationships in the Texas Health Education standards, nor do they include LGBTQ+ rights movements in the Social Studies Standards. Texan students and communities have called on the board to include LGBTQ+ history and information.
How Your Local School District Affects…
Your local school district sets district health policies. During the pandemic, some districts adopted preventative measures such as masking and social distancing to protect students, staff, and families.
School district budgets can fund more counselors, mental health programming, and additional supports for students.
Local school boards can encourage schools to teach accurate lessons about climate change. They can also promote environmentally conscious practices.
All Texas districts must make emergency operations and behavioral threat assessment plans. Districts can fund violence prevention, educate parents about safe storage of firearms, and cease active shooter drills that traumatize students instead of addressing gun violence.
In 2020, following protests for Black lives, some districts worked with students to pass racial equity plans. Many districts now face backlash to ban books by Black writers and censor students. Supportive school board members can strengthen these plans to ensure all students have a safe & just learning environment.
School is a place where young Texans can learn how to speak up and make change in their communities. Districts can prepare students for lifelong engagement by promoting voter registration, partnering with external civic programs, and even by organizing student advisory panels where students work directly with board trustees to influence decisions.
Districts can create a safe and welcoming learning environment for LGBTQ+ students through inclusive curriculum, programming, and district policies.
School board members also make decisions about police in schools and disciplinary actions that disproportionately harm Black and disabled students without increasing safety.
The Texas Constitution states “a general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people…” As Chair of the State Board of Education, I understand how critical it is our students are educated with this civics knowledge that results in a citizenry that elects leaders that continue the vision of our founding fathers.
Texas educates about 5.4 million public school students — about 10% of all students in the U.S. When you vote — from the top of the ballot to the school board elections at the bottom — you’re shaping our schools and our state’s future. It’s an easy and powerful way to make a difference, from the campus to the Capitol.
Direct engagement with our local Board of Trustees through public statements and member engagement is a vital part of what we do and how we plan to achieve progress regarding school discipline in Galveston. Engaging the Board is the reason we were able to get an equity audit completed for our independent school district! When the Board can hear the expert opinions of the students and their parents, it builds the Board’s confidence to act on their behalf. Ultimately, engaging our local Board of Trustees has built within our students more hope for their futures and the strength to fight for it.