There has been plenty of debate around the proposal for an elected Montclair Board of Education. Opponents of an elected BOE argue there could be potentially bad consequences of such a shift. In turn, supporters of an elected BOE have pointed out that these supposed future problems are already here (see “Elected BOE nightmare scenarios already appointed BOE reality” by Andrew Gideon, Oct. 18). Supporters of an elected BOE have also discussed the potential upsides of a switch see “Montclair’s deep bench of future elected BOE talent” by Selma Avdicevic October 25th)

But little at all has been said about what might happen if Montclarians instead decide to vote “no” on Tuesday.

We know that the status quo has on so many levels failed to deliver. For years, the system (and especially the Township Council-dominated Board of School Estimate, which sets school budgets) has refused to provide for adequate maintenance of our school buildings, while also doing little to address an achievement gap, along with a myriad other problems.

But if Montclair wakes up next Wednesday to a victory by the “no” votes, it won’t mean a return to the status quo.

For one thing, under NJ statute 18A:9-4 this would trigger a four-year time out on any further attempts to change the system via public referendum. More importantly, it would send a signal to the status quo that it not only shouldn’t worry about doing more to fix its shortcomings, but should feel emboldened to do less — and to fully disregard its constituents, Montclair families. (Does anyone really think that a Mayor Sean Spiller vindicated by a “no” vote would go ahead and adopt the League of Women Voters’ recommendation for a broad-based “advisory panel” on BOE appointments?) Be prepared for a long round of victor’s justice, and a deepening of our existing problems, including an already troubling drop in enrollment by families with the means to go private, as well as a “shadow exodus” of the privileged to the expensive tutoring services we see springing up around town.

At the same time, this in turn might lead to the election in the next mayoral contest of the very type of hard-edge educational reformer that opponents of an elected BOE are most afraid of — who would have absolute power to make their own appointments.

So those who are still pondering whether to vote “yes” or “no” should consider that a “no” isn’t a vote for more of the same, but a future that could be much worse than a status quo that already isn’t working.

Jonathan Farb


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