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Local Politics 101: Running For School Board

March 20, 2018 2:45 p.m.

Local Politics 101: Running For School Board


Carl Luna, political science professor, San Diego Mesa College and University of San Diego

Related Story: Local Politics 101: Running For School Board


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>> Every election season, there is so much focus on the horserace. Who is ahead in the polls. Who's raised the most money. Who made the biggest mistake on the campaign trail. That kind of coverage misses a lot of basic facts about elections that many Americans simply do not know. We are starting a series to help answer some of those questions about Civics and election roles with the hope that the information can become a basis for the other political reporting you will hear throughout the year. It is sort of a San Diego politics 101 and who better to ask then San Diego Mesa College political science professor and frequent political commentator Carl Luna. Welcome back, Carl. We started the series of the premise that many well-informed citizens actually do not know some important things about how the election process works. Do you find that to be true?
>> I don't just find that to be true but the average citizens who have a day life, I teach this and talk about it, but to prepare for some of the questions we will ask across the series, I have to do a deep dive. There's a lot of nitty-gritty in the county that has 3 million residents and a bunch of elected offices and different cities and jurisdictions. It is fascinating to find out how things actually work once you open the hood.

>>> We sent out an initial request for questions for Marlys and his. We received one from Samantha Maranda SAN DIEGO. She asked how do I run to the local school board and how I campaign or raise the appropriate funds?
>> The first part of the question is how to run from the local school board depending on your school district, there are 40 school districts in the county. Everyone has a different process. It usually involves pulling papers from the county registrar or voters office and filing a nominating petition with some degree of signatures that you need. Sometimes you have to pay money. In the city of Coronado you get 30 signatures to qualify for their ballot for school board. In the city of San Diego you need to hundred signatures and you pay $200 within the district to run and we can get 800 signatures, you don't have to pay money. It does not seem like a huge threshold but a couple of hundred bucks here and there and the signatures can take time to get.

>>> How do I campaign and raise the appropriate funds?
>> You do that carefully. It depends on the district are in and a number of people that are running, for smaller cities it could be a couple of hundred bucks 500 bucks, the bigger one San Diego, it could be up to $350,000. You raise your money in 500 or the new Is $750 per individual. Have to get a lot of individual contributions. When you get those from Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, partisan donors who have an ideological position they want to advance, local neighbors.

>>> Prospective candidates might be concerned they are unqualified. School board members need to have children in school in the district or do they have to have some sort of a degree or a degree in education?
>> All you have to do is be a look registered voter of legal age in the school district to running in. And when they have school district elections they are district based elections within that particular district. The theory is any voter has a vested interest in what is going on in our school system. Anyone can be in. You don't have to a degree or a particular connection. Most districts do some sort of a school board training for members. There is a complaint that there is probably not enough given how much technical stuff you have to learn over time.

>>> What to school board members do? They do everything. They are the managing board representing the citizens like the board of a corporation the okay major hiring decisions, school superintendents, half, principles are on the schools, they look at budget, that's a big one, the schools in San Diego have a billion-dollar budget. Some of it is restricted and have to spend money in certain ways. How they will negotiate employer relations and labor union contracts, science teaching contracts, pretty much anything you do as a senior administrator is a major corporation, you do as a school board.

>>> Some organizers say advocates should concentrate on elections from the school board up. How much influence the school board members have a community?
>> School board members are very influential. The United States would like see local control of schools. Your school board has a tickler partisan, ideological, pro-open workplace environment, you can have very different policies that come out of it. They decide how the money is spent. There are influential. But since most people will have a lot of contact with their public schools, this tends to be seen as an entry level job. You start there and then you run for city Council, state assembly, on. When given the magnitude of the impact they have, you would think this would be a mid or later career position.

>>> Listening to you, Carl, it becomes clear that this can be quite complicated. Specifically to submit this question, a part of what I think she is asking us how to run for any type of office. Is there any kind of information available for the novice candidate on fundraising, publicity, etc.?
>> The first thing you'll do is how do you qualify for the ballot. You look for candidate filing lakes are within the city are in or with the County, you can go to the city clerk's office and find those. Also if you go to a one shot fits all, the California political fair practices website will have links on how to get onto the pallet. After the fundraising, if you type into your Google, run for a local office, you will find a variety of different nonprofit and partisan sites that can give you ideas on how to get started. Ultimately, you need to find somebody who needs to run -- knows how to run a campaign. If you're in a large city you probably need a consultant who can give you ideas.

>>> Do you need to belong to a particular local political party ?
>> local elections are nonpartisan. The parties do not directly get involved in elections. They are an indirect resource.

>>> I've been speaking with Santego Mesa College political science professional -- professor Carl Luna. This is the first in the series of what we are learning about politics in San Diego 101. Is there anything you were wondering about the politics elections and why things work the way they do, email us at KPBS Midday Edition that Will be talking again, Carl.
>> Sounds good, Maureen.