It being the political season and all, charter school leaders often wonder what they can and cannot do with regard to potential legislation and political candidates. Most charter schools have a PTO that has a legislative committee. The chair of this legislative committee keeps the parent community informed of charter school-related legislation by putting out a weekly legislative update. Updates include information of an educational nature, such as when bills will be heard or voted on, who sits on the education committees and how bills have been amended. The League of Charter Schools releases information during the legislative session that can be copied by the PTO and sent home with students. Charter schools should be careful not to direct legislation; the information should be instead simply be informative.
Further, it is wise for a designated member of the charter school governing board to keep up to date on charter school legislation for the rest of the board. In addition to receiving information from an advocacy group, such as the League, the board member should be in regular contact with the elected officials representing the area in which the schools sits, or many of the school's families live. The board member should periodically invite elected officials to visit the school or attend school events. Providing specific examples to elected officials gives them facts with which to make decisions and people to contact for additional information when it pertains to potential legislative changes.
Charter school PTOs can host candidate forums during election season. Engage a community member or "neutral" party to moderate the candidate forum. Have questions previously prepared or submitted by audience members. Be sure to include questions relevant to charter school families, such as, "Do you or do you not support the charter school philosophy and what is the reason for your position?"
The charter school board and the PTO should both have policy for how and when they will involve the school or its families in political activities. For example, the policy should stipulate that all candidates will be invited and not just one. Charter school leaders can invite candidates to attend Back to School Night or other school events. Candidates can, and should, be introduced to the parents.
It's inevitable that charter schools are political by nature. Every year the legislature determines the funding level for charter schools and amends charter school legislation. It's good for charter school families to get involved. The League of Charter Schools has a guide for policy that every charter school governing board member and administrator should review.