Unlike elections for offices elsewhere in state and county government, Delaware school board elections are, in theory, non-partisan. Candidates do not appear on the ballot under a party label, and the political parties are not involved in the nomination process for candidates. Parties do often endorse and support candidates though. This presents a unique opportunity for the Libertarian Party of Delaware to support candidates without the disadvantage of running as a "third party" in a partisan general election. It is also a good opportunity for Libertarians in Delaware to engage in the electoral process, advance Libertarian ideas about education policy, and demonstrate the temperament of Libertarians in local government.
School Board elections in Delaware are governed by Subchapter IV of Chapter 10 in Title 14 of the Delaware Code (primarily 14 Del. C. § 1072 and 14 Del. C. § 1075). These statutes set the date of school board elections to the second Tuesday of May (May 12, 2020), and the filing deadline for candidates to the first Friday in March (March 6, 2020). In order to qualify as a candidate, a candidate must:
- Be a citizen of the United States and Delaware and live in the school district
- Be 18 years of age or older at the time of the election
- Live in the nominating district (many school boards only have "at-large" districts
- Not be a paid employee of the district subject to local rules & regulations
- Not have ever been convicted of embezzlement
Unlike partisan offices, there is no nomination process, primaries, or filing fees. In order to become a candidate, a candidate filing form must be submitted to the local county Department of Election prior to the filing deadline. The candidate filing form can be found on page two of the Commissioner of Elections' School Board Member Filing Packet available through their website.
Campaign Finance Information
As that packet also describes, candidates must either submit a Certification of Intention with the State Election Commissioner or create a Candidate Committee. Both can be done through the Commissioner of Elections' CFRS website.
School board members are forbidden by law to be compensated for their service (14 Del. C. § 1046), so the office pays less than $1,000. Therefore a candidate does not need to establish a campaign finance committee unless they raise or spend more than $2,000. Instructions for completing a basic Campaign Finance report can be viewed on YouTube, or candidates may contact the Commissioner of Elections office directly with any questions.
If a candidate does not raise or spend more than $2,000, only a Certification of Intention needs to be filed.
School boards have extremely limited influence over education policy, even within their own districts. Much of education policy is governed by applicable state and federal laws, and budgets are constrained by local property taxes subject to referendums within the district. Nevertheless, Libertarians on local school boards can help to promote libertarian goals like expanded school choice, fiscal responsibility, and tolerance within their local community. Serving on a school board can also provide valuable experience participating in a governing body and campaigning in elections for individuals with aspirations to higher offices. Without the common misconception of "unelectable spoilers" attached to a candidate's ballot access in partisan elections, a Libertarian candidate could do a lot of good for their communities and the Libertarian Party of Delaware by contesting a school board election.
If you are interested in contesting your local school board race, you are free to do so on your own, but by attending your local county affiliate meeting of the Libertarian Party of Delaware, you may be able to find additional assistance with running your campaign, formulating your platform, raising funds, and recruiting volunteers.
We will also be able to take some credit for your hard work to build and advance the party statewide!