Among the concerns expressed regarding a change to an elected Board of Education is that the doors will be opened to special interest money and, overall, lead to campaign money influencing education policy in Montclair.

Well, for one thing we’re already there. Mayor Sean Spiller opened a new chapter in Montclair election finance in 2016 with his run for a second council term, raising $30,000, an unprecedented amount, with less than a quarter coming from addresses with a Montclair zip code. In his 2020 mayoral race that figure jumped tenfold, again mostly from out-of-town sources related to his day job with the NJEA.

And in Montclair, the mayor has sole authority to appoint whomever she or he wants to the BOE.

For several reasons, an elected BOE will lead to money playing less of a role in deciding who gets to sit on the BOE, and thus the township’s education policy.

Nine smaller elections over three years will be harder to influence with money, especially with all the attention that will no doubt be focused on each race. The lessons from the other New Jersey towns with elected BOEs — pretty much all of them, by the way — is that candidates are by and large local residents who care about their town’s school system and providing the best education for their children.

Meanwhile, the playing field has been dramatically leveled by social media. Vote Montclair, of which I am treasurer, has made a meaningful impact spending less than a quarter of what then-Councilman Spiller burned through to win 678 votes in 2016. And we have raised it from local individuals rather than special interests, mostly in donations of $100 or less.

Opponents of an elected board shouldn't be afraid that school board elections will lead to a bigger role for money in politics. If anything, they should be afraid that maintaining the status quo keeps us vulnerable to large amounts of agenda-driven campaign contributions from outside of town having an outsize say in our schools.

Clifford Kulwin



Montclair Local's Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.

Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email, or mail "Letters to the Editor," 309 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer's name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.

Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be eligible for potential publication in that week's Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.

Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our "Town Square" banner. "Town Square" essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to at least seven days prior to publication.