Statement on NSBA Letter to President Biden
October 20, 2021
On September 30, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) issued a letter to President Biden requesting federal assistance in response to reported threats, intimidation, and acts of violence toward school board members and district staff. Since then, the letter has been the subject of intense commentary. It is important that you know where your Association stands on this issue.
The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) supports school board members in their civic duty to represent their community and provide quality educational opportunities for all students of the district. The letter to President Biden was sent without the knowledge or input from the state associations that NSBA represents. While the letter drew attention to reports of physical and verbal threats made at some publicly held school board meetings, including isolated incidents here in Illinois, the incendiary language used in it detracted from that message.
This is not the first disagreement that IASB has had with NSBA. Prior to this incident the IASB Board of Directors was evaluating its relationship with NSBA. IASB previously expressed concerns to NSBA about problems related to governance, transparency, and financial oversight. IASB suspended payment of dues to NSBA for 2021-2022, and sought to address these concerns through changes to the governance structure of the national association.
Civil public discourse and public participation are welcome and are an important part of the democratic process and good governance. Parents are a vital part of this process, and Illinois school boards strive to listen to parents and the school community. IASB disagrees with NSBA’s decision to request federal intervention, and the decision by NSBA leadership to tie the request to claims of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
IASB believes in local control and will continue to support its member boards in providing effective local governance to their school districts during these challenging times. Boards of education are encouraged to work directly with local law enforcement to find solutions that protect individuals and to ensure that meetings can be conducted without disruption.
IASB also believes that a strong federation of state associations can provide a collective voice on important federal issues. At its November 18, 2021 meeting the IASB Board of Directors will consider whether NSBA is the right vehicle to continue federal advocacy on behalf of Illinois school boards.