Sunday, August 16, 2015


Election Day is this coming Tuesday, September 8. Please vote! You can find your polling place by clicking here.

Who I am 

My wife, Carolyn, and I have lived in Iowa City for nineteen years. This year, we will have one child at Hoover Elementary, one at Southeast Junior High, and one at City High. I have been writing regularly online about local and national education policy for almost six years. In my day job, I teach legal analysis, writing, and research to first-year law students at the University of Iowa. (The opinions I express here are, of course, my own.) In addition to my law degree, I have an M.F.A. in creative writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

I am running to fill the two-year vacancy created by the departure of board member Tuyet Baruah.

Why I’m running

I’m running for the school board because I want to help make the district more responsive to the community. I’m concerned about how many decisions seem to be made without regard to community input. For example, at every opportunity our community has expressed opposition to school closings, but our administration continues to float more proposals to close schools. Our administration has also introduced policy changes—such as the recent changes to the school day schedule, or the budget cuts last year—at the eleventh hour, when there is little or no opportunity for community reaction to have any real impact on the decisions.

Other times our district has made changes without sufficiently consulting the people who would most directly be affected by them—for example, in changing the way it employs special education para-educators and in moving special education classrooms from one building to another. Consulting with affected families and staff is a wise management practice that can only improve the resulting policy decisions.

It is important, of course, to have competent professionals to administer our school system on a day-to-day basis. But the whole point of having an elected school board is to ensure that our school practices and policies are responsive to the community, and not just the preferences of administrators.

I’d like to see the board think more critically about policy decisions and, when necessary, stand up to the administration to ensure that the voice of the community is brought to bear on the choices that we make. I believe in the great potential of a democratically responsive public school system.


  • Board decisions need to be more responsive to community input.

  • We should keep all of our schools open. Closing schools when enrollment is expanding makes no sense and is needlessly divisive and expensive. (Read more here.)

  • The district should consult with affected families and staff in making important decisions, and should allow enough lead time that the board can hear all sides of the argument and incorporate community feedback into the decisions.

  • Teachers and staff need to be free—and encouraged—to speak publicly about district policy, so the public will not hear just one side of any argument.

  • The district will need to ask the voters to pass a bond to follow through on the district’s facilities plan. We need to make sure the proposal makes sense and that the voters trust the district with the money. Passing a bond requires not cheerleading or groupthink but transparency, candor, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

  • We should pay special attention to the needs of disadvantaged students and their families. In my view, those families are the best judges of what those needs are. We should seek out their advice and bring it to bear on district policy.

  • We’re under an increasing number of state and federal mandates. Not all of these mandates will be consistent with our community’s own vision of education. We should work to minimize the negative impact that kind of top-down policy-making can have. For example, if new state standards are developmentally inappropriate for the youngest kids, we should do everything we can to blunt their negative effects and to lobby for change.

  • We should use care not to fall prey to the trends described here—a terrific post about what it really means to have a high-functioning school district.

How you can help

To volunteer or request a yard sign, email

There are two ways to make a contribution:

You can contribute using a credit card by clicking on the Donate button below. It's a PayPal site, but you do not need to open a PayPal account to contribute.

Or you can contribute by sending a check to:

Chris Liebig for School Board
P.O. Box 735
Iowa City, IA 52244-0735

Please include your full name and address. Corporate contributions are not allowed.

Articles and links

Having blogged about school issues for almost six years, I’m a pretty open book. You can browse the blog here.

Guest opinion: Hoover school closure not an isolated issue

Guest opinion: Is no price too high for standardized tests in Iowa?

Press-Citizen: Chris Liebig to run for Iowa City School Board

Gazette: Liebig joins race for two-year Iowa City school board term

“One-Stop Shopping” for information about the school board election


Saturday, August 22, 10 a.m.: District Parent Organization Meet & Greet the Candidates, Educational Services Center, 1725 N. Dodge Street, Iowa City.

Saturday, August 29, 10 a.m.: North Liberty Building Community forum, North Liberty Community Center, 520 W. Cherry Street, North Liberty.

Monday, August 31, 7 p.m.: Iowa City Education Association and Press-Citizen candidate forum, Schwab Auditorium, Coralville Public Library, 1401 5th Street, Coralville.

Tuesday, September 1, 6:30 p.m.: Ecopolis/Backyard Abundance forum on sustainability and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Schwab Auditorium, Coralville Public Library, 1401 5th Street, Coralville.

Thursday, September 3, 6:00 p.m.: Special Education forum, Meeting Room A, Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn Street, Iowa City.

Tuesday, September 8: Election Day.

Contact me

Contact me at