Election Day less than a month away, the 30 candidates for the D.C. school W board have stepped up their campaigns, voicing a chorus of criticism over the current board's reputation for hamstringing and infighting and arguing the merits of the most controversial issue in the campaign, the proposed educational tax credit.

Five seats on the 11-member board are open: the two at-large seats currently held by Barbara Lett Simmons and Frank Shaffer-Corona, both of whom are seeking reelection, and the seats in Wards 2, 3 and 8.

Ward 2 incumbent Alaire B. Rieffel and Ward 8 incumbent R. Calvin Lockridge are both seeking second terms. In Ward 3, incumbent Carol Schwartz is not running.

Many of the candidates have said they want to improve the image of the board; to support the continuation of the system's back-to-basics approach to instruction; to seek ways of getting more private funds for the schools; and to use the shrinking amount of public funds available to the schools more efficiently.

Many also say they want to improve academic standards and increase students' chances of career training before high school graduation.

Not a single candidate so far has come out in support of the proposed educational tax credit which would allow D.C. parents to credit up to $1,200 on their D.C. tax returns for educational expenses for each child they have attending kindergarten through 12th grade in either public or private schools.

The initiative, spawned by a local off-shoot of the conservative National Taxpayers Union, is opposed by a unique coalition of groups and city officials, including Mayor Marion Barry, the entire City Council and School Board, School Superintendent Floretta D. McKenzie, the Washington Teachers Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, the D.C. League of Women Voters, Parents United for Full Funding, the American Federation of Government Employees Council 211 and the local chapter of the NAACP.

So far, no prominent Washingtonian has come forward to support the measure; many of its original supporters were not from the District. But Bill Keyes, chairman of the D.C. Committee for Improved Education, which is pushing the measure, says that group will publish a list of prominent local supporters before the Nov. 3 election.

City officials and others have tried to prevent the measure from getting on the Nov. 3 ballot. The matter is to be heard next Tuesday by the entire nine-member D.C. Court of Appeals, and probably will be decided before the election. A three-judge panel had decided to place the question on the ballot, but on Monday, the full court announced it was suspending that panel's directive and is holding new hearings to determine if the initiative shoud be on the ballot.

Earlier, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had ruled that more than 80 percent of the signatures on the petitions to place the question on the ballot had been collected improperly, and the board refused to place the question on the ballot. The three-judge panel reversed that decision, but now the status of the question is unclear until the full nine-member court makes its decision.

This year's election has attracted an unusually large number of candidates and this fact may help the incumbents, said Minnie S. Woodson, a former school board president who is now a member of the D.C. Committee for a Better School Board, a group of community activists that screened and rated all the candidates.

Several candidates said they entered the fight because this is a pivotal time for the city's schools with a promising new superintendent, a new curriculum, stiffer academic standards for elementary grade promotions and high school graduation, and signs that student achievement in general is improving.

But Woodson said, "I don't think the issues will decide this race. I haven't heard of any candidate being for tuition tax credits, or against the Competency-Based Curriculum the schools' back-to-basics approach to instruction or against smaller class sizes. . . .

"What it will come down to is a candidate's standing in the community, their personalities and how well they are known," she added.

Woodson said she believes many of the l8 at-large candidates think Shaffer-Corona is the weaker of the two incumbents. He is the only school board member ever to be formerly censured by his colleagues on the board.

Shaffer-Corona was censured last year for using school funds to pay for a 1978 trip to Cuba and $1,900 worth of phone calls to Iran last year in an effort to free the American hostages in Iran.

He said the trip to Cuba, where he attended a Communist youth conference, was for educational purposes. He also argued that the calls to Iran were legitimate government business.

Shaffer-Corona is seeking his second term. Simmons, who won by a wide margin in 1977, is seeking her third term.

The at-large candidates also include: Frank Bolden, the retired athletic director of the public schools; the Rev. David Eaton, pastor of All Soul's Church; Athel Q. Liggins, former principal of McKinley High School; Phyllis Young, spokeswoman for Parents United for Full Funding; Manuel Lopez, chairman of the Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Jonas Milton, the housing director of the Southeast Neighborhood House; and Andrea Gonzalez, a Metro transit employe who is running with the support of the Socialist Party.

Also running at large are: Trummie Cain, a retired teacher; Angela Corley, a teacher at McKinley High School; Ernest B. Mercer, principal of Langdon Elementary; James Carter Jr., former principal of Ballou High School; the Rev. Kathryn Bailey Moore, a local minister; Charlotte Holmes; Dorothy Cresswell, a counselor at Browne Junior High School; Berlene D. Newhouse, a parent activist; and Edwin C. Parker.

The D.C. Committee for a Better School Board, whose 30 members include former school superintendent Vincent E. Reed and several former school board members, announced this week that it supports Young, Lopez, Eaton and Bolden for the at-large seats.

In Ward 8, which includes Anacostia, Lockridge has six opponents: Phinis Jones, a former aide to Ward 8 Council Member Wilhelmina J. Rolark, is running with Rolark's support; management consultant Gordon A. White; community activist Absalom Jordan; Advisory Neighborhood commissioner Linda H. Moody; O.V. Johnson; and Edward H. Moore.

Moody has the support of the Committee for a Better School Board.

In Ward 2, which covers the Dupont Circle area and parts of Southwest, Rieffel has two challengers: Marjorie Maceda, president of the Amidon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and a parochial school teacher, and R. David Hall, founder of the D.C. Street Academy, an alternative program for high school droputs.

Rieffel has the support of the huge voting block of gay activists in her ward and Ward 2 Council Member John Wilson. Wilson said Rieffel's stiffest challenge seems to be coming from Hall, a relative newcomer to city politics. Hall has the support of the D.C. Committee for a Better School Board.

In Ward 3, which lies west of Rock Creek Park, both candidates, Wanda Washburn and Mary Ann Keeffe, are considered strong contenders, although they have very different bases of support.

Washburn, the former president of both the Deal Junior High School and Wilson High School Home and School associations, says she gets most of her support from parent groups. She says she is also supported by the Deal and Wilson student councils. She has been been a volunteer in those schools for years and was active in the parents group that fought for more funding for the public schools over the past two years.

Much of Keeffe's support comes from the Democratic Party faithful. She once headed the Ward 3 Democrats and is a former member of the city's Democratic state committee. She chaired Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's presidential campaign in the District last year.

Because of her party contacts, she recently was able to woo about 150 prospective Ward 3 supporters with invitations to a reception in her honor, hosted by W. Averell Harriman and his wife Pamela in their Georgetown home.

She also has the endorsement of Ward 3 Council Member Polly Shackleton. But Washburn won the support of the Committee for a Better School Board.

Ward 3 also has turned into a hotbed of debate for the educational tax credit issue, Shackleton said. Ward 3, the city's most affluent section, has the largest proportion of school children enrolled in private and parochial schools, she said. Several forums on the issue are being held in that ward this month.

Shackleton said she is "not at all convinced" that Ward 3 will vote "wholesale" for the tax initiative, since its passage could mean higher property taxes.

Proponents of the initiative say it could benefit the D.C. schools since citizens could help to buy books or hire additional teachers in the public schools and write off the expenses on their taxes. They also argue that corporations could make donations to the public schools and then write off up to 50 percent of their District corporation taxes.

The proponents also argue that the tax credit would not provoke a mass exodus of the best public school students to the private schools, but rather would force the troubled public schools to become more competitive with the private schools.

Local officials, however, say the initiative would deprive the city's general fund of at least $24 million, affecting not just the schools, but police, fire, sanitation and other city services.

To make up for the loss of revenues, property taxes would surely have to be raised by at least 30 percent, according to Council Member Betty Ann Kane (D-at large).

The opponents to the tax credit also argue that it is unfairly slanted toward the middle class since a taxpayer would have to make at least $25,000 a year to qualify for the full $1,200 credit. A family with an annual income of $7,000 would be eligible for a credit of only about $128.

They have argued that the wording of the initiative does not make it clear that only one taxpayer can claim the credit for one student. Instead, they say the wording leaves a loophole by which more than one taxpayer could contribute to the education of a single child and each taxpayer could claim a credit for the same child.

If interpreted in this way, the cost to the city would be far greater than if a single taxpayer claimed the credit for one student.

City school board elections are known for low voter turnouts. Thus, the initiative is expected to bring to the polls people who would not normally vote in city school board elections, including parents with children in private and parochial schools and city residents with no children and no stake in the public schools.

Also on the ballot are candidates for a constitutional convention on D.C. statehood and for membership on the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. tuition tax credits, or against the Competency-Based Curriculum the schools' back-to-basics approach to instruction or against smaller class sizes. . . .

"What it will come down to is a candidate's standing in the community, their personalities and how well they are known," she added.

Woodson said she believes many of the l8 at-large candidates think Shaffer-Corona is the weaker of the two incumbents. He is the only school board member ever to be formerly censured by his colleagues on the board.

Shaffer-Corona was censured last year for using school funds to pay for a 1978 trip to Cuba and $1,900 worth of phone calls to Iran last year in an effort to free the American hostages in Iran.

He said the trip to Cuba, where he attended a Communist youth conference, was for educational purposes. He also argued that the calls to Iran were legitimate government business.

Shaffer-Corona is seeking his second term. Simmons, who won by a wide margin in 1977, is seeking her third term.

The at-large candidates also include: Frank Bolden, the retired athletic director of the public schools; the Rev. David Eaton, pastor of All Soul's Church; Athel Q. Liggins, former principal of McKinley High School; Phyllis Young, spokeswoman for Parents United for Full Funding; Manuel Lopez, chairman of the Adams-Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Jonas Milton, the housing director of the Southeast Neighborhood House; and Andrea Gonzalez, a Metro transit employe who is running with the support of the Socialist Party.

Also running at large are: Trummie Cain, a retired teacher; Angela Corley, a teacher at McKinley High School; Ernest B. Mercer, principal of Langdon Elementary; James Carter Jr., former principal of Ballou High School; the Rev. Kathryn Bailey Moore, a local minister; Charlotte Holmes; Dorothy Cresswell, a counselor at Browne Junior High School; Berlene D. Newhouse, a parent activist; and Edwin C. Parker.

The D.C. Committee for a Better School Board, whose 30 members include former school superintendent Vincent E. Reed and several former school board members, announced this week that it supports Young, Lopez, Eaton and Bolden for the at-large seats.

In Ward 8, which includes Anacostia, Lockridge has six opponents: Phinis Jones, a former aide to Ward 8 Council Member Wilhelmina J. Rolark, is running with Rolark's support; management consultant Gordon A. White; community activist Absalom Jordan; Advisory Neighborhood commissioner Linda H. Moody; O.V. Johnson; and Edward H. Moore.

Moody has the support of the Committee for a Better School Board.

In Ward 2, which covers the Dupont Circle area and parts of Southwest, Rieffel has two challengers: Marjorie Maceda, president of the Amidon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and a parochial school teacher, and R. David Hall, founder of the D.C. Street Academy, an alternative program for high school droputs.

Rieffel has the support of the huge voting block of gay activists in her ward and Ward 2 Council Member John Wilson. Wilson said Rieffel's stiffest challenge seems to be coming from Hall, a relative newcomer to city politics. Hall has the support of the D.C. Committee for a Better School Board.

In Ward 3, which lies west of Rock Creek Park, both candidates, Wanda Washburn and Mary Ann Keeffe, are considered strong contenders, although they have very different bases of support.

Washburn, the former president of both the Deal Junior High School and Wilson High School Home and School associations, says she gets most of her support from parent groups. She says she is also supported by the Deal and Wilson student councils. She has been been a volunteer in those schools for years and was active in the parents group that fought for more funding for the public schools over the past two years.

Much of Keeffe's support comes from the Democratic Party faithful. She once headed the Ward 3 Democrats and is a former member of the city's Democratic state committee. She chaired Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's presidential campaign in the District last year.

Because of her party contacts, she recently was able to woo about 150 prospective Ward 3 supporters with invitations to a reception in her honor, hosted by W. Averell Harriman and his wife Pamela in their Georgetown home.

She also has the endorsement of Ward 3 Council Member Polly Shackleton. But Washburn won the support of the Committee for a Better School Board.

Ward 3 also has turned into a hotbed of debate for the educational tax credit issue, Shackleton said. Ward 3, the city's most affluent section, has the largest proportion of school children enrolled in private and parochial schools, she said. Several forums on the issue are being held in that ward this month.

Shackleton said she is "not at all convinced" that Ward 3 will vote "wholesale" for the tax initiative, since its passage could mean higher property taxes.

Proponents of the initiative say it could benefit the D.C. schools since citizens could help to buy books or hire additional teachers in the public schools and write off the expenses on their taxes. They also argue that corporations could make donations to the public schools and then write off up to 50 percent of their District corporation taxes.

The proponents also argue that the tax credit would not provoke a mass exodus of the best public school students to the private schools, but rather would force the troubled public schools to become more competitive with the private schools.

Local officials, however, say the initiative would deprive the city's general fund of at least $24 million, affecting not just the schools, but police, fire, sanitation and other city services.

To make up for the loss of revenues, property taxes would surely have to be raised by at least 30 percent, according to Council Member Betty Ann Kane (D-at large).

The opponents to the tax credit also argue that it is unfairly slanted toward the middle class since a taxpayer would have to make at least $25,000 a year to qualify for the full $1,200 credit. A family with an annual income of $7,000 would be eligible for a credit of only about $128.

They have argued that the wording of the initiative does not make it clear that only one taxpayer can claim the credit for one student. Instead, they say the wording leaves a loophole by which more than one taxpayer could contribute to the education of a single child and each taxpayer could claim a credit for the same child.

If interpreted in this way, the cost to the city would be far greater than if a single taxpayer claimed the credit for one student.

City school board elections are known for low voter turnouts. Thus, the initiative is expected to bring to the polls people who would not normally vote in city school board elections, including parents with children in private and parochial schools and city residents with no children and no stake in the public schools.

Also on the ballot are candidates for a constitutional convention on D.C. statehood and for membership on the city's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.