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Princeton School Officials Debate Moving School Elections to November

The Board of Education wants to hear what voters think before making a decision at the next meeting on Dec. 18.

 

Princeton Public Schools officials are debating whether or not to change annual school elections from April to November.

Last year, only 70 of the nearly 600 school districts across New Jersey chose to stay with April elections, including Princeton. Superintendent Judy Wilson said even more districts will probably move to November elections next year.

There are pros and cons to both options, but school officials want to hear from voters before making a decision at the next Board of Education meeting on Dec. 18. Let the district know your opinion by posting on the Princeton Public Schools' Facebook page.

If the district decides to move to a November vote, the commitment would be for four years, Wilson said.

A November vote would likely increase voter turnout because that’s when other local, state and federal elections are held; April elections draw only about 9 to 11 percent of registered voters to the polls, Wilson said.

November elections would also probably cost less- from about $40,000 in April- to a pro rata share of all of the districts voting in November.

Board Member Dan Haughton said he prefers a move to November, and not just for the cost savings.

“My feeling is if you really want to encourage democracy, you’re going to get more voters, and more parents, turning out in November. “

But without an April school election, Princeton voters would lose their opportunity to approve or deny the school budget, so long as the district stays within its 2 percent mandated tax cap.

“Leaving aside the cost savings, I still believe the public has a right to vote on part of their tax bill,” Board President Tim Quinn said. “Since we are up to 50 percent of local property taxes, I think it’s an exercise in democracy and an opportunity for the public to give us a thumbs up or thumbs down.”

Some have also expressed concern that November school elections could become more susceptible to outside influence or partisan politics, even though board candidates are listed in a separate section of the ballot and candidates not aligned with any political party.

But even non-partisan ballot placement has some school board members concerned, because candidates are listed via a random drawing, prompting concern that voters simply vote for the first two or three candidates rather than researching the qualifications of each.

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Maria Juega November 29, 2012 at 09:18 PM
I went to the Facebook page and there's no way to post (???)
Maria Juega November 29, 2012 at 09:19 PM
There is no way to post comments on the Schools Facebook page, that I can see (???)
Greta Cuyler (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Hi Maria, the district posted a link to our article on its FB page and there is room to leave comments below that. Or else you can feel free to leave your comment here and we'll be happy to pass it along.
Charles Tibbets December 15, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The argument that extremely low-turnout April school elections are a bright and shining example of popular democracy is preposterous. Public awareness of the election beyond the confines of the educational community itself is virtually nonexistent. The Democratic Majority Leader of the NJ State Assembly, Lou Greenwald, said that “April school votes are a costly charade.” Further, Greenwald went on to say that by moving the election to November, “we’re controlling government spending and property taxes and increasing public participation in our democracy. These are all good things.” (Source: http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com. 2/7/12.) It’s clear that most PRS school board members march only to their own self-interested drummer–and that’s the way the “insiders” want to keep it.
Charles Tibbets December 15, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Thanks, Greta, for your work in the public interest. It's otherwise really difficult to get through to the School Board or the administration.
Alex Stewart December 15, 2012 at 04:44 PM
If the school board really wanted to hear from the taxpayers instead of just themselves, why do they make it so difficult to send in a comment? Not everybody is on facebook or has a "Patch" account. One would think they would post the board's email address or provide some other direct contact point besides going through a couple of filters. In any event, I certainly support having the school board election in November for the reasons Board Member Haughton and others have cited. And why not the school bond referendums as well? Local, county and state bonds are on the November ballot so why not schools? Another $40,000 could have been saved in 2012. That would certainly be consistent with the Legislatures's intent.
Maria Juega December 15, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Concur with above comments. Maintaining April elections IS a charade.

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