Edison, NJ - Both the Edison Town Council and the Edison Board of Education scheduled special meetings this week to discuss moving School Board elections from November to April. The Board of Education held its meeting last night. Hours before that meeting, Edison Council President Alvaro Gomez announced that he was cancelling the Council’s Special meeting, which was scheduled for tonight.
In a statement, Council President Gomez said “I am canceling the special meeting to give Township Council members more time to gather relevant information so we can make an informed decision about switching our school board elections to the first Tuesday in April. The Council will reschedule its discussion of this issue once we have time to consider the relevant details.”
Under state law, the Council could have unilaterally moved the Board of Education elections to this April, but the deadline for that decision is January 21, 2019, necessitating the Council’s special meeting.
At its special meeting on Tuesday, Board of Education President Jerry Shi stated “Earlier this week, it came to the attention of this Board that the Town Council was convening a special meeting to discuss the movement of this year’s Board of Education election to April. I convened this special meeting of our Board so that we, as a Board, had the chance to weigh in. Earlier this evening, I was informed that Council President Gomez cancelled the Town Council’s special meeting.”
Despite Council President Gomez’s decision to cancel the Special Council Meeting, the Board pushed forward with its meeting, receiving comments from both Board members and the public on the subject.
Board members on the Township liaison committee also described their meeting with members of the Council on Monday. The purpose of that meeting was to discuss the Council’s decision to move school board elections from November to April.
“So when we spoke last night to the town council members, my question to them was ‘why are you in a rush to do this’. By moving to the April election, you would be throwing potential people who want to run for the board of education into chaos. Any of the candidates would not have time to properly raise the money, coordinate their efforts, they would have to file immediately for a run in April, and we just had a run for Board of Ed. So the timing of this seems pushed and rushed and it doesn’t make sense to me.” said Board member Beth Moroney.
Moving school board elections would also have meant that the Board of Education budget would have appeared on the ballot in April. Proponents of the move have suggested that the moving the election would give voters greater say on the budget itself. However, it was not clear whether the budget would be ready by this April since State funding is generally not announced until later in the year.
Board member Richard Brescher, who also attended the Monday meeting, said that he clarified some misconceptions. “[The Council] believe that we had a bloated pot of money, I think is the way that they presented it. What they don’t understand is that Edison Township is in the lowest 10 percent of costs that we spend to educate children.”
Board member Elizabeth Conway also weighed in at the Special meeting. “The Board of Ed kind of gets lost in the election,” she said, referring to the election in November. “But when it comes down to dollars and cents, we are still better off staying in November, and I am glad that this decision is being kept.”
Members of the public largely agreed with keeping the school board elections in November. One Edison resident, Carol Bodofsky said, “The main point in having an elected Board of Education, is to have voter input in selecting the people that run the school system. Most people agree on that part. If you are supervising a government entity, you should have voter support. The more voter input and support, the better. Based on that logic, voter turnout really matters. So keeping the fall election makes sense if you want more local citizens to have a say in who the Board of Ed. Members are.”
Mr. Shi agreed. “Regardless of where we end up, I would like to see greater participation by our residents. This past election saw tens of thousands of votes cast for Board of Education candidates. We should continue to encourage that level of participation and try to exceed those numbers. When residents participate in the process, the process becomes stronger.” he said.