In case you missed it, the NJ Legislature recently passed legislation (Bill A4394) that allows school board elections to be moved to the general election in November. The new law also stipulates that the school budget does not need to be approved by the public if the budget increase is within the 2% cap. However, referendums and supplemental budget items would still require public approval.
At its 1/18/12 meeting, the Middletown Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to move its election, normally held in April, to November. The Board terms that would have expired this April are automatically extended until November. Five spots on the Board are up for election at that time, Joan Minnuies, Michael Donlon and Leonora Caminiti are up for re-election while new members Sue Griffin and James Cody, who filled unexpired terms of resigning board members, will be listed on the November ballot.
For the record, I’m not against moving the Board of Education elections to November per say. I think the more people that come out to vote, for or against, the candidates and school budget the better. Citizen participation is a good thing.
What I worry about however is that these elections will become much more politicized than they are now, which will take away from and could be confused with, real issues that effect local governments and school systems.
Board of Education candidates will align themselves with the political parties and will feel pressure to tow the party line and adhere to the wishes of state and local party bosses, over the best interests of those in the school systems.
To run an effective municipal campaign for Township Committee, campaigns could spend in excess of $100,000 to win an election. In contrast most school board candidates spend less than $7,000.
A town’s Board of Education will essentially be up for sale each year to the special interests that donate the most to the candidates up for election , it could get messy.
Last weeks edition of the Independent has an article about the Middletown Board of Education’s decision to switch it’s election from April to November.