New Jersey Set to End Special Voting on School Budgets

Governor Chris Christie is set to get his way as lawmakers across the state support a measure that would eliminate votes on budgets that fall under the 2% property tax cap, writes Lisa Fleisher at the Wall Street Journal.

Christie has also been working hard to get school board elections moved to November, saying that low-turnout April elections often are “a rubber stamp that benefit the teachers union”.

Traditionally, budgets that have been passed in April elections have been met with turnouts in the single digits in some areas, but now, under the bill, school boards, voters or municipalities could choose to move school elections to the general November election date.

The elections give voters a chance to reject government spending and send a powerful message to school districts. In 2010, for example, Christie urged voters to revolt against school districts where teachers hadn’t agreed to pay freezes, which led to 59% of budgets across the state’s more than 600 districts being rejected, writes Fleisher.

Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said:

“Voters sometimes will react to a budget based on other considerations, such as the general state of the economy or more likely other governmental spending.

“This is the only thing they’re able to take it out on.”

The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, supports the bill, says spokesman Steve Baker.

However, Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon expressed some concerns over whether budget votes in November would occur after the school year begins. Showing that many issues need to be ironed out before being implemented.

Education is a hot topic for Christie, who recently urged state legislature to “step up”, after the NJEA acknowledged reform is unavoidable.

In the fall, Christie touted a state pilot program that will implement teacher evaluations in nearly a dozen New Jersey school districts, and he urged the state Legislature to pass four bills he claims will reform education statewide.

 “We’re not meeting our obligation to those children and their families,” Christie said.