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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Roberts: move school votes to November

Dismal turnout throughout New Jersey in the recent school board and budget vote has Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts renewing a push to have school board elections moved to the same November date as the general election, and possibly eliminate budget votes completely.

Only around 14 percent of New Jersey's eligible voters actually showed to vote in the April school election, and no school election in the past 25 years has actually seen turnout go over the 20 percent mark, according to Mr. Roberts' office.

Those poor turnout numbers come despite the fact that the majority of a New Jersey resident's tax bill goes to the public school system, in a state with some of the highest property taxes in the United States.

"It's time for New Jersey to wake up to the reality that the April school elections are a poor way to decide the direction of public education in districts across the state," said Mr. Roberts, D-Camden, in a statement. "It makes no sense to continue holding elections in which a super-minority of voters participate. Greater voter turnout will lead to greater accountability when it comes to property taxpayers' money."

Apparently two legislative committees in the state government have already recommended switching to a November date, citing both increased turnout and the reduction in administrative costs associated with holding the April election.

A portion of what Mr. Roberts will likely propose, in a series of bills, will eliminate voting on school budgets, unless a budget goes over a set cap on increases determined by the state government.

Annually more than 70 percent of school budgets pass, give or take, and a no vote usually results in small reductions and the later passage of the budget, regardless of a "no" vote on a school budget.

In other legislative action on education, places like Trenton could be required to hold a referendum to decide between the current mayoral-appointment of board members, versus an annual election for seats citywide, with the passage of legislation currently sitting in committee.

1 comment:

Chrissy said...

Personally, I like the idea of holding the school elections with the general election in November, but the trouble is that most voters in New Jersey are completely disillusioned. We could have an election week, or an election month (rather than a day), and I'd bet turn-out wouldn't be much better than it is now. I just hope that high quality people with an interest in civic responsibility start to get more involved, and begin to displace the "business as usual" politicians, which I think would make a difference with voter turn-out.