Turner/Ruiz Measure Would Require School Boards To Hear From Public

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and M. Teresa Ruiz that would require boards of education to open a portion of every meeting to public comment was approved today by the Senate Education Committee.

“Successful schools require strong community involvement,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Chair of the Committee. “We cannot have that involvement if local school boards are unwilling to listen to the thoughts and needs of concerned residents. There is far too much at stake with our schools to allow school boards to function without having to listen to the public.”

The bill Senators’ bill, S-1300, would amend the Open Public Meetings Act to add boards of education to the public bodies that must set aside a portion of every meeting for public comment. The length of time to be set aside would be determined by the board of education and members of the public would be able to comment on any issue of concern to the residents of the district.

“Public schools are at the core of our communities. It’s critical that they are run in the most open and transparent way possible,” said Senator Ruiz. “With schools having the impact they do on our children’s lives and our property tax dollars, there needs to be an open line of communication exists between the school board and the community.”

Senator Turner noted that although current law requires that all meetings of boards of education be open to the public at all times, this bill would specifically require a designated time to allow members of the public to speak. Municipal governing bodies are already subject to this requirement, she said.

The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 4-0 and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.