Who Wants to Be a School Board Member? Not Many in NJ, Apparently
If you want a spot on your local Board of Education, that may not be so hard to accomplish.
Fewer people in New Jersey have been willing to seek a seat on a school board, while more races have seen no candidates at all.
In November, 805 of the state's 1,528 open school-board seats went uncontested on Election Day. In most cases, that meant just one person was shooting for the position. But for 130 of those uncontested seats, the ballot was totally blank.
According to Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, a drop in candidacies came about in 2012 when most school boards shifted their elections from April to November.
The move, prompted by law signed by Gov. Chris Christie that year, was meant to increase voter turnout for school board races.
Ironically, the change resulted in fewer candidates because it also changed the candidate filing deadline from winter to late July.
"It comes right smack in the middle of summer when people are not really attuned to public schools and the education program," he said. "It's something that we think does need attention, and we do have to consider maybe making that filing deadline a bit later."
The association has expressed interest in moving the deadline to September. The switch would require legislation.
A lack of participation, though, can't only be blamed on the adjusted timeline. Belluscio noted school board membership is "not for everybody." It can be rewarding, but requires a great deal of time and effort. And it's not paid.
"If you don't have the time to devote to school board office, then you really should not be running for it," he said. "We would rather have one person who has the time and the commitment, rather than several people who don't, seek office."
When no candidates appear on a ballot, write-in votes can decide a winner, as long as the person is eligible and interested. If not, the seat will be filled by an appointee of the executive county superintendent, Belluscio said.
To learn more about becoming a candidate for your board of education, contact your local school district's main office and ask for a candidate information packet and petition.