TSS Blog

Voting, Elections, and Questions You Might Be Scared to Ask Part II

Tennesseans for Student Success wants to break down some of the most commonly asked questions that, we hope, will help you make informed decisions at the ballot box this year and for years to come. The reality is, the people we vote to represent us in local and federal elections have significant influence over Tennessee’s one million students and their futures, so it’s crucial we get this right. If you missed part I, check it out here. Keep reading as we address questions regarding the election process in Tennessee further. 

What does the school board do?

School boards play a central role in determining student success. School boards create and implement policies that affect spending, student outcomes, and accountability. School board members are on the frontlines in making critical decisions for the day-to-day operations that impact students, teachers, schools, and districts. School boards are responsible for things such as:

  • Advocating on behalf of the students in their district 
  • Setting a vision for the district
  • Adopting policies to set priorities and achieve its goals 
  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent 
  • Adopting and overseeing the annual budget
  • Approving contracts for teachers and outside vendors 
  • Overseeing the ethical conduct of district employees
  • Student and district employee discipline policies 
  • Developing and adopting the curriculum
  • Expanding the district or closing schools

School board members are the direct voice from your community speaking on a county level for students and their school. And remember, school board members are your neighbors, often parents or retired teachers who want to make a more significant impact on local schools. They want to hear from you and make the best decisions possible for students. They also need your vote, so get out to vote in the primary election in Tennessee!

For more information on why school boards matter and specific information about the roles and responsibilities of Nashville’s Metropolitan Board of Public Education, read NashvilleNOW’s report here. Additionally, read their report on the Role of a School Board in Promoting Student Achievement.

How do I find out what candidates stand for?

At TSS, we believe that evaluating legislators openly and honestly helps voters better assess how local officials are working to improve the future of Tennessee’s one million students. That’s why we release our TNSuccessCard annually, which offers clear and concise information on how members of the General Assembly voted to support student-centered policies such as rigorous academic standards, an assessment aligned to those standards, accountability for everyone involved in student success, public choices in education, innovation, and keeping economic opportunity for all students in mind. It serves as a helpful tool recognizing Tennessee’s elected officials for their commitment to ensuring all students have an opportunity to succeed in college, career, and life. Check out how your state senator and state representative voted by visiting the SuccessCard. To find online information for U.S. House and Senate elected officials as well as state-level positions, check out the TSS Civic Action Center.

Why are State Senators and State Representatives important, and what is their role?

According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website, the role of the Legislature is “to enact, amend, and repeal the laws of Tennessee. Some of the specific powers granted to the General Assembly by the state Constitution include the appropriation of all money to be paid out of the state treasury; the levy and collection of taxes; and the right to authorize counties and incorporated towns to levy taxes.” Legislative proposals, bills, and resolutions can impact local townships, districts, or the state as a whole. Learn more about the Tennessee Legislature here.

How do State Senators and State Representatives affect students in the classroom?

In the Tennessee General Assembly, both the House and the Senate chambers, have committees dedicated to education, with the House currently having subcommittees for K-12, Higher Education, and Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation. In these committees, our state elected officials determine policies for academic standards, accountability systems, propose new programs, monitor school health, ensure students’ safety, just to name a few. The members of the committees are key voices in determining the future of Tennessee’s one million students. That is why it is critical to elect and support leaders that keep student success at the forefront of every decision made in Nashville. To connect with your legislators about questions or concerns you have for your student and schools regarding COVID-19, send an email here.

How do I know who my elected officials are?

Utilize our Civic Action Center to find your Mayor, County Committee At-Large members, County Officials, State Representative, State Senator, Governor, U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Vice President, and President. 

What is the frequency with which I vote for state legislators and members of Congress?

The United States Senate candidates run for election every six years while the United States House of Representatives run for election every two years. Tennessee State Senators are elected every four years with even-numbered districts being elected in the same general election, and those representing odd-numbered districts being elected two years later. Tennessee State Representatives, on the other hand, are elected to two-year terms in office. 

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office is a great resource for election, polling, and additional questions you may have. Check out their website here for further information.

Any additional questions? Feel free to contact our Policy and Outreach Manager, Jessica Whitmill, for more information or questions.

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