The issue of moving school board elections from April to November is one that has both positives and negatives. But when I weigh the pros and cons, I believe it is in our best interest to keep our elections in April.
By having our school board elections in April, we are able to safeguard the integrity and independence of our school board system from partisan politics – and yes, sometimes from partisan political “noise” that we all know to expect come November.
Even though the school board candidates would not be running on the party lines, they would have to contend with whatever other offices might be on the ballot in that given election year: president, governor, Senate, Congress, state Senate and Assembly, Sheriff, freeholder.
Voters have a hard enough time keeping track of all the candidates who run in November. I do not think it is fair, to the voter or to the school board candidate, to add to the general election mayhem.
It is true that, today, we see a level of turnout in school board elections that is frustrating on many levels. With the importance of what the school board does, it is no understatement to say that many more citizens should be voting in school board elections.
It is a noble hope to increase turnout. But turnout in and of itself should not be our only goal. Our primary goal should be to increase awareness, to educate the voters about the school board, about the candidates, and about the issues that this board faces.
But moving elections to November seems too much a drastic move, which very well could backfire. November school board elections may simply get lost in the shuffle of the hyper-political atmosphere of the general election season. And, were that to happen, we would be stuck with that scenario for the next four years.
Perhaps, instead of relegating school board candidates to “bottom of the barrel” status, we on the Board can spearhead newer and more innovative ways to increase voter turnout AND voter awareness at the same time.
I don’t believe that simply moving elections to November will accomplish these two goals.
School boards are local entities. We exist to serve the children and students of the City of Paterson. We should make every effort to keep our elections as free from political interference as possible – whether that interference is intended or not.
Politics and governing are two tremendous forces, formidable and awe-some in their own right, and they sometimes collide with each other, creating gridlock. And real people are hurt as a result.
Just take a look at Washington DC right now, that’s a perfect example. We should strive to keep this Board of Education and its electoral process as free from politics as possible. Our purpose is to serve the students of the City of Paterson.
I believe that they are best served through keeping our school board elections as they are now, in April.
Corey L. Teague
Member Paterson BOE
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