Assembly Democrat Wayne DeAngelo has issued a press release voicing support a bill that has been immobilized in the Legislature for a year or more. Bill A-15 is two parts: one moves school board elections from April (where average turnout is less than 15%) to the general election in November, and the second part eliminates school budget votes for budgets that come in under the 4% cap. While school board members and NJEA leadership are perfectly happy with the second part, they sharply oppose the former. Says the School Boards Association, “school boards members maintain that November board member elections would result in partisan politics dominating local education issues on a wide scale, in spite of best efforts to prevent it from occurring. NJSBA will seek amendments to have this provision removed.” NJEA concurs:
This move would politicize what is currently a non-partisan election process.
Who are they kidding? Some school boards are already partisan, and the ones that aren’t are highly political anyway. School board members’ names will be printed on a separate non-partisan portion of the ballot and more people will vote. Incumbents and union favorites will suffer a bit. The taxpayers won’t get stuck with the expenses incurred by having a separate election in April.
As far as eliminating school budget votes, districts’ finances are already tightly constrained by state regulations, oversight, and the 4% cap. Indeed, with union annual increases almost always over 4% and insurance rates rising, every district is cutting back. The vote itself is just a charade: if a budget fails, it goes to the municipality, which usually doesn’t cut anything anyway. If it does cut, the district can appeal to the state. It’s a silly, time-consuming exercise that turns school districts into marketing teams.
It’s time to pass A-15.