Running for school board
Election and Term of Office
All school board members in Washington are publicly elected (except when a person is appointed by a board to fill a vacancy pending the next regular school board election). In some districts, all or some directors are elected at large and may live anywhere in the district. In other districts, board members must live within certain areas called director districts. In either case, candidates are voted on by all voters in the school district except in primary elections in Seattle. Check with the superintendent of schools or the county auditor’s elections office for the election plan in your district.
State law provides that school board elections are to be held in odd-numbered years. School board elections are "staggered," which means only part of the board is up for election in any given year.
The filing period for school board elections is Monday through Friday of the first full week in May (this is a change from previous years). Declarations of candidacy are filed with the county auditor’s elections office, and there is no filing fee. If a district is located in more than one county, candidates file in the county where the majority of the district’s residents live.
Primary election day is the third Tuesday in August and the general election is on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. If no more than two people file for a position, there is no primary election for that position. Newly elected directors take office at the first official board meeting following the certification of election results by the county auditor or county elections officer.
All Washington school boards have five members except the Seattle School Board, which has seven. School directors in Spokane, Tacoma, and Everett serve six-year terms, and all others serve four-year terms.
To be legally eligible for the office of school director a person must be a:
- Registered voter in the school district; and
- Registered voter in the director district within the school district, if applicable.
- To register to vote, you must be a citizen of the United States, a legal resident of Washington State, and at least 18 years old by election day.
Conflict of Interest
Neither a school director nor his/her spouse or interdependent family members may be employed by the school district except:
- When the director’s spouse was employed by the district before the director’s election or appointment to the board;
- In districts with fewer than 200 students, a director’s spouse may be employed as certificated or classified staff;
- A director’s spouse may be employed as a substitute teacher if there is a shortage of substitutes;
- In second-class districts (under 2,000 students) a director, his/her spouse or interdependent family members may be employed as a bus driver at the same rate of pay as other such employees; or
- In second-class districts, a director, his/her spouse or his/her dependents may work as unskilled, day laborers for not more than $100 per month.
In addition, a school director may not have any direct or indirect financial interest in any contract, purchase of materials or activity paid from school funds that exceeds $1500 per month. For more details on conflict of interest restrictions and exemptions, review Chapter 42.23 of the Revised Code of Washington.
Most school directors and school board candidates are required to file financial disclosure statements with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). These reports begin with candidacy and continue throughout the term of office. Candidates must also file campaign finance reports. For detailed information regarding requirements, deadlines, and forms for reports, contact your county auditor’s elections office or the Public Disclosure Commission.
It is important to remember that the state’s public disclosure law prohibits the use of facilities of any public agency from being used directly or indirectly to assist any campaign for or against any candidate or ballot proposition. Thus, school board candidates must make a complete separation between campaign activities and the school district.
Local ordinances may also contain specific requirements, such as the placement of campaign signs, so be sure to check with the city or county. Again, for details on campaign restrictions, contact your county auditor’s elections office or the Public Disclosure Commission.