TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee today approved a bill, S-1861, sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner to move school board elections from April to November to save tax dollars and to increase voter interest in local school management.
“It’s obvious from the turnout figures, year in and year out, that people don’t focus on school board elections held in April,” said Senator Turner, Chair of the Senate Education panel. “By holding the school board elections in November, there will be greater focus on those who are seeking to control millions of local education dollars.”
The bill also would eliminate votes on annual school board budgets where proposed spending is within state authorized limits known as caps. Spending requests above the cap would be subject to voter approval in November temporary budgets would sustain school district operations.
“Taxpayers want to see some concrete steps taken to eliminate unneeded spending at all levels of government,” Senator Turner said. “Switching low-turnout school board elections in the Spring to the November general election will be a win-win for taxpayers and those concerned with local education issues.”
Senator Turner said the separate listings for school board candidates and candidates for other offices in the November general election will preserve the school board elections from undue political influence.
“Right now, school board elections held in April average something like 15 percent turnout,” Senator Turner said. “With the opportunity for a general election turnout, there will be a greater likelihood that school board candidates will get a consensus evaluation in their communities. Now, if a special interest group wants to mobilize behind a set of candidates, it can overwhelm the sparse turnout for an April election.”
The bill now faces a final legislative vote before the full Senate. An Assembly version, A-15, already won approval in the lower house.
The committee vote today was 3-2 to advance the measure.