The Paterson Board of Education election has been moved from April to November after a close vote on Tuesday: five school board members — Chrystal Cleaves, Christopher Irving, Manny Martinez, Kenneth Simmons, and Corey Teague — voted for the move; while four others — Wendy Guzman, Jonathan Hodges, Errol Kerr and Alex Mendez — voted against the measure.
Those for the measure argued that when polls usually opened in April very few Patersonians came out to vote. By changing the election date from April to November, placing the candidates on the general election ballot, the argument asserts: it’s bound to increase voter turnout. For about a year, the city’s school district discussed the positives and negatives of switching to a November election. Many watched other towns — nearly 500 districts switched their school election to coincide with the general election — in New Jersey switch their elections from April. In those districts that changed their date to November last year the turn out was immense — in some districts it increased by more than 60-percent.
In January 2012, Chris Christie, the governor of the state, signed into law A-4394/S-3148 to allow school districts to switch elections to November in order to increase turnouts and decrease costs of holding elections. The change allows districts to tack their candidates onto the general ballot that is printed during November, rather than spending money holding a school board only election in April.
In 2012′s school board election in the city 7,994 voters turned out to vote; in 2013′s school board election in the city 10,076 voters turned out to cast their ballots. In a city where about 20,000 voters turned out to elect a mayor in 2010 it is unclear what the increase will be for the school board election after the switch. The speculation is there will be slight increase; however, the cost paid for that increase will be much more say some. Education advocates from the Paterson Education Fund, a non-profit, have guessed that it will increase the amount of money needed for candidates to run for these elections, thus discouraging poor locals — those who wish to make sincere changes to the system — from running.
“Moving to a November election will essentially give control of the school board to the county chair and committee,” reads a statement on the organization’s website by Irene Sterling, the organization’s president. If that happens candidates running will be vetted by each party, thus effectively closing the door for independents and non-affiliated candidates.