For this week’s blog, we are excited to have a very special guest author! Dr. Matt Robinson, the State Board of Education Member for District 7, shares his thoughts on how you can get involved in public service by running for your local school district’s board of trustees, or even seeking a seat on the State Board of Education.
Running for a position on your local school board, or for a spot on the State Board of Education (SBOE) is not about fame or glory. It’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about improving the educational experience for kids in your community or elevating the educational quality of public schools — statewide. If your motivation is in the right place, you’ll love it!
When you think about it, there’s really nothing more important than the education of our youth. Spending the appropriate amount on public education is an investment in our future. A quality education for a child in poverty is their ticket out of poverty.
So, if you think along these lines, you’d be a great addition to your local Independent School District (ISD) or the SBOE! So now that you’re ready to move forward, here are some things to consider ahead of time:
Do you have the time to commit that will make you a valuable member? Serving on your local ISD Board of Trustees is doable for most people. The meetings are in the evening and typically only once or twice a month. It is also expected that you’d attend school events fairly often. Serving on the SBOE is a more significant time commitment — five weeks a year (Tuesday through Friday). And neither of these offices pays anything. The TEA will reimburse you for your travel expenses and give you a daily per diem for meals.
Running for SBOE is a partisan race, so it would be very helpful if your partisan leanings corresponded to your SBOE District. Since it is a partisan race, many voters will want to know your views on a whole host of issues that have nothing to do with education.
A good candidate for either of these positions is someone who is enthusiastic and energetic about the race and serving. A happy warrior will almost always do better than an angry elf. If there’s something you want to change, put it in a positive light. And finally — you will need to be able to easily work collaboratively with others on the Board to be effective, as well as to enjoy it.
Filing for either of these positions is not complicated. For a position on your local ISD Board of Trustees, you pick up the paperwork at the district’s central Administration office. Both the BOT and SBOE positions are four year terms. The filing for the SBOE position is done through the Texas Ethics Commission website.
To run a successful campaign for your local school Board, it will help a lot if you’ve already been engaged in your community in some way. Specifically, try and get to know some of the other Board members, or leaders in the community. For the SBOE race you’re going to need to get to know some of the local Republican or Democratic activists, as they will either pave the way or block your efforts. And for both you’ll have to raise some money for the campaign. This is where your core group of friends/supporters can help in organizing a fundraiser.
Being an elected official brings more scrutiny to almost everything you do. People will approach you at the grocery store, you’ll receive a significant number of emails regarding anything related to the school district or what’s happening before the SBOE. And not infrequently you’ll get a thank you!
Serving on your local school Board is a good lead-in to the SBOE. I would highly recommend having done something directly related to education before running for the SBOE. Through the course of the election for SBOE, and in serving on the State Board, it would be of great benefit getting to know as many of the ISD Superintendents in your SBOE District as possible. They are an amazingly dedicated group of individuals, and can be an invaluable resource as well as a great well of support.
Finally, I’ve found both of these positions greatly rewarding. Serving your community and striving to make the educational experience great for all kids is a noble cause.
Dr. Matt Robinson, a moderate Republican, represents 13 counties in east Texas. He is the State Board of Education Member for District 7. Dr. Robinson has practiced medicine as a urologist in Galveston for more than two decades. His commitment to community service and public education runs deep, and he served on the Friendswood ISD Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2018.