Victoria Plettner-Saunders

In presidential election years we often forget that there are really important races going on in our own communities. Here in San Diego we have a hotly contested mayoral race, the outcome of which could be as critical to locals as Obama v. Romney will be to the nation.

But we also have school board elections getting underway and the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) has geared up for its election year Candidate Survey Project.

I’ve participated in previous years by soliciting responses to survey questions from the school board candidates which are then posted on the CAAE website. The results are promoted through press releases and pushed out through social media so that voters can find out how their candidates stack up with their support of arts education.

What I love about these surveys is that I always find out things about the candidate that I didn’t know—who played instruments in high school, who makes contributions to which arts organizations, etc.

They all seem to want to look good to the voters about the arts. Of course there are those who also talk about budget needs and core subject priorities, but I rarely see a candidate respond completely negatively when asked about their commitment to arts education.

This in itself is important because the survey response means they are on the record. It gives advocates a connection and an opportunity to turn them into allies when they become school board decision makers.

So now that I’ve told you all the great things about the surveys, let me share a resource with you that will help you create your own candidate survey. The CAAE website has all the tips, timelines, and templates to help you develop your own.

While the web resources are designed for use in California races, you can tailor their “Five Easy Steps” to meet your needs wherever you are. The sample letter in Step Three includes the four questions that are in the CAAE survey. You can use these or come up with your own.

They used Survey Monkey to gather their data. I used my Mail Chimp contact management program to send the survey link out to the candidates with the cover letter. It was easy and efficient. Using a contact management program helps me merge information to customize the requests while also enabling me to track the responses, find out who has opened the email and if any bounced.

I encourage you to try conducting an arts education candidate survey in your community. If you have any questions or need a little support, feel free to contact me!

One Response to “Election Time: Gauging School Board Candidate Support of Arts Education”

  1. Great post! I would love to see this happen in every community in America.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.