Can the school board put term limits on itself?

Welcome back, Readers! We greet you upon your return from the Turkey Holiday with a question we do not know the answer to.  Can the elected school board adopt a rule limiting members to a certain number of terms of office?  Neither the Texas Education Code nor the state Constitution address this question.  But we are about to get an answer from the state’s Attorney General.  The Chair of the House Committee on Elections has requested an opinion from Attorney General Paxton.

As the request notes, there have been bills introduced in the legislature addressing term limits for school board members dating back to 2009. None have passed. So now the question is: can a local board impose term limits on its members?  The Committee Chair, Jodie Laubenberg, notes that school boards have “exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools” along with the power to “adopt rules and bylaws necessary to carry out the powers and duties.”  Ms. Laubenberg, a Republican from Collin County, suggests that the board could do so:

… is my understanding that a local school board could choose to enact a policy that would, for their district only, apply term limits to the number of consecutive terms a trustee could serve.

We shall see what Mr. Paxton thinks.  State law currently spells out the qualifications for serving on a school board, and does not limit the length of a person’s service.  We have many trustees in Texas who have served for over ten years, and some for decades.  They serve for free, and without the generous pension benefits that our state representatives enjoy after a certain number of years.  Serving on a school board is a tremendous community service.  Those who serve are accountable to the voters every three years.

But there are those who think it would be good to limit their service.  No doubt the legislature could impose such a restriction by state law, but that has not happened. So we see this effort.

Looking down the road, let’s just assume that the AG says this is perfectly legit.  So District A adopts term limits for its members. If this is done by way of an adopted policy or bylaw, what’s to keep the district from changing its mind next year?  I can foresee some back and forth on this.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s see what the Attorney General thinks.  The request has been assigned as RQ-0191-KP.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday and an “expedited hearing” in Arkansas.