Louisa Dykstra for Des Moines School Board

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Republican policies on education funding and working conditions for teachers have inspired many newly-engaged Iowa activists to run in tomorrow’s school board elections.

School board members don’t control the budget, but they decide what programs to cut or spare when resources are scarce. They influence contract negotiations, so can mitigate the harm Iowa’s new collective bargaining law will do to educators. Winning non-partisan, local races can also help build the Democratic bench, as many successful candidates for the Iowa House and Senate previously served on a school board.

Turnout for school board elections is typically low in the absence of some hot-button local issue, like this year’s Iowa City school bond proposal. A handful of voters may determine the outcome. Rob Barron won his at-large seat on the Des Moines School Board by just 28 votes in 2013.

Three progressives are seeking the two at-large seats on the Des Moines board this year: the incumbent Barron and first-time candidates Louisa Dykstra and Kyrstin Delagardelle Shelley.

I’m encouraging my friends in the Des Moines district to cast one of their votes for Dykstra.

Louisa and I became acquainted through parenting circles thirteen years ago. In support group settings and on Facebook, I’ve noticed her compassion and creative advice for parents who feel overwhelmed or are struggling with their little ones’ challenging behavior.

Our children attend the same school, where Dykstra has consistently been one of the hardest-working parent volunteers while running a business from home. I’ve seen her stay calm and focused during school meetings where conversations grew heated over some of the agenda items. She’s also been a strong voice for installing sidewalks on Windsor Heights streets leading to parks and elementary schools–a surprisingly contentious issue locally.

This past year, she has devoted more of her volunteer energy to education policy

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