New Jersey State Senator Jim Holzapfel, Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, and Assemblyman John Catalano (all R-Ocean) have introduced legislation requiring members of the New Jersey State Board of Education to attend Board meetings in person.
“Why is it that every other institution can return to pre-COVID procedures except government boards in charge of making decisions that affect everyone’s lives?” Senator Holzapfel asked. “We can agree or disagree with the State Board of Education’s decisions, but there is no longer an excuse for Board members to hide behind a computer and limit the public’s ability to comment on controversial policies that will impact their children’s education.”
Despite all schools and businesses being open to the public and local school board meetings being held in person, the State Board of Education continues to host virtual meetings. The bill removes the option for the Board to meet remotely as it has since April of 2020.
During that time, public testimony on controversial policies considered by the Board has been limited to written submissions.
“Personal interaction and participation with constituents is part of the democratic process. This is a common-sense, workable measure that will restore the opportunity for citizens to share their concerns and interact directly with policymakers,” Assemblyman McGuckin said. “Board members must return to listening to and answering the hard questions raised by concerned parents about the important education policy changes they consider.”
The legislation also requires both in-person and virtual public access to Board meetings.
“We want Board members to meet in person, but we also want the public to have increased access to meetings to improve transparency,” added Catalano. “That means giving the public the choice to attend the meetings in Trenton or watch online from their homes. It also means giving the public the opportunity to provide testimony both virtually and in person. For nearly three years, parents have been denied a voice in education. We want to give it back.”