Bill Moving School Board Elections on Today’s Docket

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The Courier-Post reports that Bill A 4360 will come up for a vote this afternoon. (It will probably pass.) As written, the legislation would give school boards, municipal officials, or the public (15% of residents on a petition) the power to make a four-year commitment to November school board member elections. If the school district’s budget is under the 2% cap, budget votes would be eliminated.

Both NJEA and NJ School Boards Associations support the bill, although NJSBA wants to cut the part where town councils can authorize the change in date. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also support the bill.

Administrators love the idea. School board members, at least those in cantankerous districts? Not so much. From the Courier Post:

Richard M. Fitzpatrick, superintendent for the Upper Freehold Regional School District, said it would be better for the community if more voters were engaged in educational issues during the November election.

“I think it makes more sense to get a stronger vote so people know who is making decisions,” Fitzpatrick said in an interview. “School board members are making … critical decisions for kids.”

But Wayne Gottlieb, a school board member from West Milford in Passaic County, said he thinks the education establishment is underestimating political parties’ ability to take over local school districts

“If you think moving school board candidates to a partisan ballot will not result in partisan influence, you’re naïve,” Gottlieb said in an interview. “Partisan starts with a p, like two other words: patronage and plunder.”

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