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KSBA Answers

After the filing deadline: Campaigning for school board

Kentucky School Advocate
June 2022

By John Powell
KSBA staff attorney

The filing deadline for this year’s local school board elections is June 7. This election cycle about half of the board seats in the state are up for election. After the transcripts are secured, papers are signed and filing fee paid, what do current board members and newcomers need to know about campaigning for the November election?

Can a board candidate ask or allow the district’s employees to work or volunteer for his or her campaign, or ask employees to make donations to the campaign?  

District employees can exercise their First Amendment free speech rights, outside their employment, and can vote in a board member election, but Kentucky Revised Statue 161.164 prohibits a board candidate running for election or re-election from soliciting or accepting any “political assessment, subscription, contribution, or services” from that district’s employees. Services includes distributing campaign literature, canvassing voters, fundraising or being involved in the management of a campaign. A violation of the statute may be grounds for disqualification from office.

However, district employees can display school board campaign signs and other signs on their property and wear buttons and have bumper stickers, etc., as long as they are not on official district duty.

The local education association in my county endorses candidates. Can I accept an endorsement?

According to a 1992 attorney general opinion, a school board candidate need not either accept or decline an endorsement of a local education association or similar employee union. Endorsing a school board candidate is not the same as contributing or providing a service to the campaign. Voluntary endorsement of a candidate is the same as an expression of personal opinion and therefore not prohibited by KRS 161.164.

Several of my fellow board members want to help with my campaign, are they allowed to campaign for me?  

While there are no legal restrictions on a current board member working for a board candidate’s campaign for another seat on that school board, the practical outcome may be a very tense and difficult working relationship between the current board member and the successful candidate, if the board member supported the successful candidate’s opponent.

Where can I learn more about the rules and requirements for school board election finance laws?

All candidates for school boards must comply with the reporting provisions of Kentucky’s election and campaign finance laws. A helpful publication prepared by the Registry of Election Finance, the “Candidate Guide to Campaign Finance,” is accessible along with other campaign finance resources at
kref.ky.gov.

If a committee is formed to support your candidacy, it must register with and provide to the registry the information required in KRS 121.170. It is the committee’s responsibility to initiate contact with the registry.

School board candidates may now accept individual and permanent committee (PAC) contributions of up to $2,000 per contributor in any one election. KRS121.150(6).

Download KSBA’s 2022 School Board Election Resources Guide
Candidates seeking election to local school boards in 2022 are encouraged to carefully review KSBA’s 2022 School Board Election Resources Guide, complete with answers to frequently asked questions, a checklist, breakdown of requirements, sample documents and more. Find the guide at this link.

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