To the Editor:
The Princeton Public School Board has a unique opportunity to fully enfranchise our newly unified community by switching its elections to November in this widely-adopted and highly popular New Jersey reform. By changing our school board elections to November, we will effectively enfranchise more voters, create a climate of public engagement on the critical issues facing the Princeton Public Schools, and finally, save at least $40,000 per election. Let’s examine the major concerns raised by those most vocally opposed to Reform: November Elections, Non-Partisan Elections, the Budget and Bond Issues.
November Elections: The highest turnout of voters In Princeton is by far for the General Election in November. To hold the school board elections on any other date is a de-facto disenfranchisement of Princeton voters. With the school portion of our property taxes swiftly approaching 50% of our total tax bill, don’t you think its time for as many registered voters as possible to have a say in the governance of our school board?
Non-Partisan Board elections: School Board elections are by law and by popular consensus non-partisan. In Princeton, our voter rolls comprise some 49% registered Democrats, 40% unaffiliated voters, and 11% registered Republicans. While whisper campaigns have occurred in the past, there has always been strong bi-partisan representation on our school board. Princeton voters are educated voters--they understand and fully embrace the spirit and value of non-partisan elections. I trust and respect my neighbors to cast informed ballots, and have no doubt they will be able to find the column reserved for the non-partisan school board election slate.
Budget: The recent bi-partisan agreement to cap annual school budget increases at 2% has removed one of the most volatile issues from the school board’s agenda. Democrats, Republicans and the New Jersey Education Association are all in accord--this agreement brings school budgets under the same 2% cap as currently applied to municipalities. This is why the acrimonious, costly, and time-consuming annual voting on the school budget has been happily relegated to the dustbin of history by the majority of municipal school districts. Retaining the separate and special budget vote is a $40,000 waste of taxpayers’ money. By placing the school elections on the November ballot, the local taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for a special election.
Bond Issues: With the 2% annual school budget cap, bond issues will now play a greater role in the long-term finances of our school district. Greater transparency and greater public engagement can only strengthen our school system and its allocation of resources.
There are many serious issues facing the Princeton Public Schools in our future--and changing the School Board elections to November is an important and rational step in moving forward as a unified community.
The Board of Education wants public input before its December 18th meeting where the proposal to adopt November elections will be on the agenda. I encourage everyone to actively participate by sharing their opinions with the Board. One can leave a comment on the Princeton Public Schools’ facebook page or leave a comment on the “Princeton Patch” article on school board elections (PrincetonPatch.com.)