I have not decided which way I am going to vote on the issue of an appointed vs. elected Montclair Board of Education. I strongly support the right of everyone to vote but am not sure that translates to voting for everything, especially without guardrails to prevent the influence of large campaign contributions. We don’t have to vote for everything to support democracy. As a mom, I include my children in decisions, but it would have been complete chaos to have them vote on everything.

What concerns me about changing to an elected school board are issues I have not seen discussed. The first and most important is the role money may have in determining who will have a voice in the running of our schools. The role of money in politics distorts the choices and influences important decisions. Another concern is who will be on an elected board. Appointed boards benefit from members with diverse skills and backgrounds. I do not support the League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area’s proposal to transfer the appointment power to the deputy mayor. If there is a conflict for the mayor, I would rather see either the entire Township Council or a person who ran as at large make appointments, as those would be more representative of the township’s wishes.  

While a public vetting of candidates may be beneficial, there are many qualified people who will have neither the time nor money nor interest in running for election. We have already seen the teacher’s union’s influence on our township government and in turn, the Board of Education.  Funding and supporting candidates could exacerbate this, to the detriment of our schools. I have not seen any ways to safeguard school board elections to prevent the influence of money or a situation where the New Jersey Education Association or Montclair Education Association is controlling decisions by the board. I am still undecided but concerned about changing to an elected board.

Carol Schlein


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