As the New Jersey State Legislature’s lame duck session limps to a close, two education bills have a shot at passage on Monday: A 4394, which would give school boards and communities the option of moving elections to November, and the Urban Hope Act.
The first bill has been effectively tweaked, per efforts by the NJ School Boards Association. In its original form the legislation allowed for three different groups to move elections from April to November: the local school board, 15% of the community, or the municipal government officials. This last version (here’s a press release) eliminates the prerogative of town councils.
NJSBA also wanted to separate two parts of the bill: the part that eliminated school budget votes if the proposed budget came in under the 2% cap, and the part that moved the election of school board members to November (during the general election). That separation didn’t fly, however, and Gov. Christie probably wouldn’t have signed it anyway. As currently written, it’s a matter of whether school boards are enticed enough by the carrot –- no budget votes! – to accept the stick – November elections that are less easily controlled and will garner a higher turnout.
One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, said,
Politicians and pundits have talked about doing this for years, but special interests and inertia have prevented progress on this important issue–until today. Empowering towns to move their school elections to November will give voters better control of their local finances while saving property taxpayers the costs of holding yet another local election.