CSBA salutes the more than 5,000 school district and county office of education trustees that serve California’s 6.2 million students during January’s School Board Recognition Month. Citizen oversight of local government is the cornerstone of democracy in the United States. School board members are the epitome of this tenet in their roles as locally elected public officials entrusted with governing public schools in their communities.
California’s collective student body is larger than the total population of many other states and comprises the largest public school system in the nation with the most diverse student body. As citizen leaders, school board members face complex and demanding challenges and responsibilities to ensure students receive a high-quality education, while also maintaining fiscal solvency for the local educational agency. District and county office trustees provide a critical link of accountability between the school system and local constituents while offering an accessibility to voters that is unrivaled by other public officeholders. Board members contribute countless hours each year leading their districts. Whether crafting policies; gathering input from staff, students and the community; or recognizing outstanding programs, board members always keep their eyes on the goal of student achievement.
Board meetings represent just a small fraction of the many hours school board members spend leading in their districts and county offices. They also continue their lifelong learning journeys through professional development and keeping on top of the latest trends in educational leadership, are deeply involved in community activities and spend time in their local schools and at extracurricular events.
“School board members represent perhaps the most direct form of democracy in the U.S. today,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “They are citizens elected by their fellow community members and entrusted with their most precious commodity — their children. Board members dedicate countless hours to serving their communities, from laying out a roadmap that aims to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education to overseeing what is, in some areas of the state, the largest employer in a community with the greatest number of facilities to maintain. They push for a quality education for every child, and they do this all with a woefully inadequate funding level that ranks 38th in the nation. For these reasons and more, this month has been set aside to recognize these fearless leaders.”
In 2019, collective school board advocacy reached new levels as acknowledged by Gov. Gavin Newsom in his presentation of the state budget proposal in which he credited the efforts of school boards in directing additional funds outside of the Proposition 98 guarantee toward pension relief. Board member voices were also heard loud and clear in May 2019, when CSBA joined the California Teachers Association and other education partners for a momentous Rally for Education on the steps of the State Capitol, working together to demonstrate the need and support for Full and Fair FundingSM of the state’s public schools. And, after a decade of hard-fought advocacy, significant reforms surrounding charter school governance and regulations were signed into law, including greater transparency and accountability for charter school governing boards and enhanced discretion and authority for authorizing LEAs.
CSBA was founded to support the important work of board members. As CSBA’s mission statement notes, “Strong local boards of education are essential to ensure a high-quality education for every student in every community.” CSBA recognizes the dedication and hard work each trustee commits toward fulfilling that goal.