School board elections may move to November

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Monday, May 12, 2008




New Jerseyans would elect school-board members in November rather than in the spring, under a bill approved by an Assembly committee Monday. But voters also would lose the power to decide multimillion-dollar district spending plans, which account for at least 50 percent of their property taxes.

The two-pronged bill drew a curious mix of testimony before the Assembly Education Committee. Representatives of the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association and other lobbyists were displeased about the change in balloting date, but championed the decision to remove voters from the decision on spending.

Some committee remembers referred to a dismal voter participation rate, an average of less than 15 percent statewide.

“We need to have much more participation,” said Assemblywoman Joan Voss, D-Fort Lee. “This is disgraceful. We have to do something to get more public input into how money is spent.”

This year 14.3 percent of eligible voters voted in school elections, and they defeated 26 percent of the budgets, according to the state Department of Education. Last year 13.9 percent voted and rejected 22 percent of the budgets.

Critics acknowledged the low turnout, but argued that a move to November would politicize what is — officially, anyway — a nonpartisan event.

Ginger Gold, representing the teachers union, went so far as to suggest that the change in voting dates could be likened to a trap, forcing people to cast ballots when they rather would not.

“Just because people go into the booth doesn’t mean people will vote. You may not increase voter turnout as much as one might think,” Gold told the Assembly Education Committee. “We don’t force people to vote.”

Gregg M. Edwards, president the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, a nonprofit public-issues group, testified that opponents to the November balloting feared a loss of power.

“It comes down to this: They don’t want more people voting,” Edwards said. He referred to his longer written testimony, which read: “The fewer the voters, the easier it is to affect election contests. The largely invisible and inaccessible April election magnifies the influence of certain special-interest groups.”

The bill was sponsored in part by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, an indication that it has significant support among the majority party.

Some committee members — including Assemblyman Scott T. Rumana, R-Wayne, who voted against the measure — said they were uneasy about excluding voters from the budget process.

“Taking the vote away from the public is a big concern for me,” he said. And as a practical issue, he said, a ballot with multiple contests may not be able to accommodate only so many names.

Some who testified pointed out that even if voters reject a local spending plan, state officials have the power to restore it. Even Edwards, so in favor of a November election, called the budget vote “a sham” and “largely symbolic.”

New Jersey’s Board of Education elections are a perennially odd rite of April: Historically low numbers of voters decide how the majority of property owners’ tax money is spent. Statewide, just 15 percent of eligible voters turn out for the contests, which take place apart from races for any other elective office. By comparison, 77 percent of eligible Bergen County voters cast ballots in the 2004 General Election.

Would-be trustees often are longtime Parent-Teacher Association activists or educators employed outside their hometowns. Their campaign budgets rarely reach four figures, a fund so limited that many candidates try to reach voters via a Web site or in interviews with weekly newspapers.

Rosemary Bernardi, a trustee in Evesham, Burlington County, told the committee that if school elections were in November — particularly in a presidential year — voters would be too preoccupied learning about candidates for more visible office.

“How much press time would you have for a school election candidate? None,” she said.

Richard Snyder, a Ramsey trustee, testified that a November election date would expose would-be candidates to machine politics, in which well-funded organizations could back a slate. Candidates who resist the machine’s overtures, he said, would be outspent and unseen.

Edwards, however, said a change to November — when voters are more aware about politics in general — could raise awareness about trustees’ role, possibly drawing more people to run.

“This could dramatically change the way school districts work,” Edwards said.

  1. The fly hears that the BOE has selected a new Super.

    Who is it and why doesn’t every know yet?

  2. I was told the BOE has “narrow” its search to ONE candidate. To me it sounds they have their guy or gal. Def. not from town since they were doing visitations today….

  3. I really hope it’s Marty Brooks again, that will serve all the folks who voted for Sheila right.

  4. Yea, the search firm gave them (BOE) three choices. Two really, really, really bad ones and then the one that the firm was promoting.

    Why do we hire such a firm, is our HR dept. at Cottage Place incapable of doing a its own search?

  5. How do you know they were doing visitations today? Where did they go?

  6. Overheard someone – It could be someone from Glen Rock or Glen Ridge. Lets just hope the Board and that Mr DeSimone did something right for a change.

  7. i hope its marty brooks also heheheheheheheheh

  8. 2:07 & 8:46 – You must not have any kids or friends with kids in the school system. Otherwise, you would never wish such a tragedy.

  9. The pols just want to get their hands on the money. Like all other crime families, they want to expand their operations in new directions. Heroin, protitution, pay-to-play, spending money meant for education on anything you damn well please, etc.. The unionized crime families like the idea because it would be easier to cut deals in trenton or the county with the big bosses. They’d each get their cut and not have to answer to anybody.

  10. PJ- how about some ‘value add’ – whom do we write to to keep the right to vote on the school budget?

  11. 613 you voted for giving up the right to vote ,now your on your own

  12. yes i agree with dan if your dumb enough to vote to give up the right to vote 613 you dont deserve the right to vote…sorry sucker

  13. 6:13, if you voted for Laurie Goodman and Shelia Brogan, you gave up your right to vote on the budget.

    Hence, you’ve made yourself a looser in every sense of the term.

  14. 4:20 PM,

    Thanks for the tip.

    Keep us up to date.

  15. Too bad we still have school boards. I’d settle for just a CEO whom we can hold accountable. Having a bunch of HSA types feeling so dependent on bureaucratic administrators makes them all patsies for what the administrators want: a job with no accountability, higher salaries, bigger raises, larger pensions and a chance to live off the public for the rest of their lives.

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