School boards are always in a difficult situation. Since many mandates are education-related, our school tax levy is among the highest in the nation, but school boards have no choice but to implement them. Many school districts are already working with the NYS School Boards Association to formulate recommendations for mandate relief. Another action they can take (and this is where YOU can help) is to pass a non-binding resolution demanding mandate relief. Read on to learn how to take action in your school district! It won’t take too much time and it will make a difference … plus you will gain valuable experience.
Have you ever been to a School Board meeting in your school district? Most of us haven’t – yet this group of people is responsible for the school budget and the associated tax levy to fund it. Many school boards recognize that unfunded mandates are driving up school budget and taxes and are trying to deal with it through the New York School Boards Association and through dialogue with the State Legislators responsible for their district. However, these efforts have had limited success. Much more can be accomplished if the residents in the school district stand up and be heard.
At least 35 school districts have signed non-binding resolutions demanding mandate relief from Albany. The resolutions are called non-binding because they are not enforceable – the school district has no choice but to implement the mandates coming from Albany, whether state funding is provided or not. Despite this, these resolutions are very powerful, because they serve to EDUCATE the residents about the issue and PUBLICLY COMMUNICATE to Albany that we have had enough. Many school board meetings are attended by reporters who will write articles about the topic, and these can be followed up with letters to the editor of those newspapers. Passing a non-binding resolution is an easy but effective way to stimulate discussion about this topic.
Here’s how to do it:
- Check here to see if your school board has already passed a non-binding resolution demanding mandate relief.
- If they have, great! You can still attend a school board meeting and during the public comment period, thank the school board for doing so. This will let them know that their residents are paying attention and supporting them in this fight.
- If they haven’t, download our toolkit (below) which contains a sample public comment statement, generic resolution language, a list of school boards that have passed a similar resolution, and a flyer with information about unfunded mandates.
- Find out when the next school board meeting is. By exploring the school board website, you can find out how many members there are on the board. Make copies of the toolkit (everything but your prepared statement) for each member of the school board, plus a few extras.
- Arrive to the meeting early (especially if you’ve never been to one before) and sign up to talk during the public comment period. Typically you will be given 3 minutes. After you read your statement, sit through the rest of the meeting to find out how they are going to handle your request for them to pass the resolution. If they don’t bring it up themselves during the meeting, usually there is another public comment period at the close of the meeting, so you can ask then.
- Bring an extra copy of your prepared statement to give to any reporters who may ask for them.
- Follow up at the meeting that they plan to address the request to find out if they are going to heed your request.
- Be prepared with two statements at the closing public comment period, one for if they said yes and one for if they said no!
Bring a friend for moral support if you’d like, but you don’t need it! You pay school taxes and you have a right to let the school board know your views and ask them to publicly demand an end to unfunded mandates. All of the school boards who have already done this have done so enthusiastically, because they fully agreed with the message and wanted to let their residents and the State government know where they stood on this critical issue.
School Board Toolkit:
- Sample public comment statement. Please feel free to put these thoughts in your own words, or use them as they are written here.
- Sample resolutions: (We will continue to add more samples as we receive them)
- Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District Resolution, passed 2/14/2012 – this is a more recent resolution that can be used as a model for other districts
- Saratoga Springs City School District, passed 4/26/2012
- Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association Sample Resolution, dated 2/26/2012 – this is a resolution created by the WPSBA to be a model for other districts. Two formats are available: word or pdf
- Berne-Knox Westerlo School District Resolution, passed June 2011
- Partial listing of school districts who have passed similar resolutions.
- Letter from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (AD110), showing support for this action
- Unfunded Mandates Flyer, created by the UCC