staircase
A closed-off staircase at Montclair High School in 2019. (PHOTO COURTESY NATHANIEL WODNICK)

Letters recently published here opposing an elected Board of Education share a common fallacy: they describe nightmarish potential future scenarios while ignoring that these events have already occurred under an appointed board.

One nightmare is a BOE owned by special interests and/or big money. This can already be seen today in the gross imbalance of spending between candidates in recent council elections, including the 60-fold difference in the most recent election when the township was blanketed with glossy mailers sent by a Trenton PAC, and ballots equal to the margin of victory were left oddly yet conveniently uncounted. A BOE appointed by a mayor requires that special interests win only a single seat in a single election to take control of the board and therefore our schools. An elected board would raise this bar, requiring those interests to win multiple seats over multiple elections in multiple years. This offers more protection than our schools and students have today.

Another nightmare proposed is the loss of our magnet schools. This would involve seeking relief from the current desegregation order. It would presumably be proposed to reduce spending on transportation. Disturbingly, with our operating budget inflating over the 2% cap just considering a few line items, and years of underinvestment in our capital budget, we’re already on this path. The annual screeches of “deficit” and subsequent cuts, along with stairs collapsing beneath students, locker walls falling on students, masonry falling from buildings that has luckily — so far — not fallen on students, unrepaired ventilation including in restrooms and so forth all speak to a budget on a path to desperation.

Nightmares that writers have proposed as possible consequences of an elected board are already a consequence of our appointed board. An elected BOE would offer more protection against special interests and big money. An elected board would free us of the destructively
parsimonious Board of School Estimate, and would permit the BOE and voters to escape the chokehold of the 2% cap. An elected Board of Education is what Montclair needs to escape the nightmares brought on by too many years of an appointed BOE and BoSE starving our schools and depriving our children of the education they require and deserve.

Andrew Gideon
Montclair


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