Paul Pate

Paul Pate

This Tuesday, Sept. 8, important elections will take place in your community. The next leaders of your local school board and community colleges will be determined at the ballot box. Exercising your right to vote in these elections allows you to provide input into one of the most vital functions of society: educating our students.

School board members make decisions regarding the educational system that molds future generations. This body determines school programs and courses, leadership positions, and budgeting for the district. School board elections allow members of the community to choose who will chart the course for our next generation of leaders. Voters should participate in these elections to decide which individuals best fit that role.

Even if you do not have children in school, as it will be your tax dollars supporting the board’s fiscal decisions. In fact, one of the largest parts of your property tax bill is used to pay for school-related programs and infrastructure.

A recent Pew survey determined why some people choose not to vote. One of the top reasons given was people do not think their vote matters. That line of thinking is misguided. School elections like the ones we have across Iowa on Tuesday play perhaps the biggest impact on citizens’ lives because the elected body is local. School boards make decisions that affect your neighbors, your family and your pocketbook.

Unfortunately, the usual turnout for school board elections is notoriously low. Only 6 percent of Iowa’s registered voters participated in their respective school board election in 2013. Seven percent participated in 2011. This year, I hope that we can greatly expand those numbers.

One of my top goals as Iowa’s Commissioner of Elections is to increase voter participation. If you do not vote, you give up your voice in decisions that affect you and your community. I encourage all Iowans to fulfill this civic duty. School elections are the only instance, other than November general elections, in which every citizen of Iowa is eligible to vote.

A strong school district bolsters the economy, increases the esteem of the community and produces high quality citizens. School board elections are the essence of grassroots politics. The community comes together to elect those that they think would best serve in the capacity to lead students. The key here is that the community must participate in order for this action to be effective. By voting in the school board election, citizens are showing a definite interest in the betterment of the community and the students it guides.

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, we have very important elections all across Iowa, in 335 different public school districts. I hope to see you at the polls.

Paul D. Pate is Iowa's Secretary of State, he can be reached at Paul.Pate@sos.iowa.gov.

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