Election Day is right around the corner.
You may not realize it but Tues., Feb. 8, is the date for primary elections for school board seats.
Now, that may not sound like a big deal. But it is! School boards hire and evaluate superintendents – the district’s chief executive. The approval of a majority of the board’s five or seven members is required to make contracts and the district’s budget. And they can authorize bond issue elections and the expenditure of bond dollars accumulated through property taxes. They must follow the many laws in the state of Oklahoma that deal with public schools finances, operations, and open meetings.
It’s a complicated, time-consuming job, with no pay. (Tulsa school board members get a $25 stipend for some meetings.)
But while I will argue the boards that govern public school districts – elected citizen volunteers – are critical to the American institution that is the foundation to our democracy, I have to admit participating in school board elections can be downright frustrating.
First off, who even knows when these elections occur? Especially if you’re just Jane or Joe Citizen – and not a school employee or parent. The news media hardly covers these contests; maybe a brief mention. The races are non-partisan. And if a candidate can raise some money, it usually goes to a few yards signs and maybe a mailer.
So this reminder: School board primary elections are Tues., Feb. 8.
But please note, that is just the first round. The general election for school board races is Tues., April 5. Here’s how it works, according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
The school board general election is April 5, 2022. If more than two candidates file during the December filing period for an open seat or unexpired term, the election will be Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will proceed to the school board general election on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. 26 O.S. § 13A-103. A candidate who receives a majority of the vote (50% + 1) is elected.
Now, back to the frustration. Here is the real kicker: Not every contested school board race will be on the primary election ballot – only races in which there are three or more candidates.
In Tulsa County, there are three primary races – in three different school districts – that will be on the Feb. 8 ballot. This is out of 16 total school board seats up for election this year, across 14 school districts in Tulsa County. (Tulsa and Skiatook each have two board seats up for election this year.)
Compared with the three primary election races – which drew three or more candidates – there were six seats that drew only a single candidate, and seven that will be decided by the April 6 general election. (The top two candidates who receive a plurality will meet in the general election.)
Now the action step – how do you know if you can vote for a school board candidate this year? It’s so easy, you’ll fall in love with this.
Go to the Ok Voter Portal which is official online service of the Oklahoma State Election Board. Just click okvoterportal.okelections.us.
If you are eligible to vote in a school board election on either Feb. 8 or April 5, the League of Women Voters is the best objective source for candidate information at the League’s vote411.org website.
So now you know. Investigate the elections you can vote in on Feb. 8. (There are a number of municipal elections, too.) Inform yourself. And VOTE!
Gary Percefull is a local entrepreneur and a former Tulsa Public Schools school board representative for 16 years.