Next week, the PTA Council and the League of Women Voters of Evanston are sponsoring two forums for the candidates for our School Boards.

 The first forum, for candidates for the District 202 Board, will be held at 7 p.m. on March 2 at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. ETHS Parents Engaged is also a sponsor of this forum.

There are five candidates vying for three positions on the District 202 Board: incumbents Jonathan Baum and Mark Metz, and, in addition, Adrian Dortch, Monique Parsons and Anne Sills.

The second forum, for candidates for the District 65 Board, will be held at 7 p.m. on March 5 at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.

There are four candidates vying for three positions on the District 65 Board: incumbents Richard Rykhus and Omar Brown, and, in addition, Jennifer Phillips and Mr. Dortch.

We encourage everyone who is eligible to vote to attend. It is essential to get to know the candidates individually at their coffees and meet-and-greets. It is equally important, we believe, to see the candidates as a group and see how they distinguish themselves from one another, how involved they have been in the schools, how knowledgeable they are about the schools and educational issues, how they comport themselves in a potentially uncomfortable setting and whether they are willing to answer the questions as put to them rather than responding to questions they may wish had been asked.

Much will be asked of School Board members in the next few years. The Districts are transitioning to the Common Core State Standards, which are intended to raise the educational bar and prepare all students for college and careers. District 65 is on the cusp of adopting a new, ambitious three-year strategic plan. District 202 is in the evaluation phase of its mixed-honors program for freshmen and is expanding enrollment in it advanced placement courses. Both Districts are partnering with each other and other organizations in the community through the Joint Literacy Goal, the Evanston Cradle to Career Initiative and many other programs.

Contemporaneously, each District is feeling financially strained due to many years of a low Consumer Price Index, which limits property tax revenues and higher increasing salary expenses and health insurance costs. The financial position of both Districts is threatened by pending and proposed legislation that could dramatically cut their state funding by millions of dollars and potentially shift millions of dollars of pension costs upon them.

 We need strong leaders who can carry through on the initiatives the School Districts have in place to educate all children and to draw on the resources of parents, community organization and each other to help in that effort. We also need strong leaders who will advocate fiercely to maintain funding necessary to educate our children, 40% of whom are from low-income households.

This election is important. Attend the forums and ask questions. Size up the candidates and be prepared to cast an informed  vote.