Statement on the victory of the Elected Board of Education referendum in Montclair

This election was about the basics of local democracy and public services: About residents in our Township enjoying the same voting rights as in other communities, and then using these rights to ensure that our most precious residents—our children—are given the best public education possible.

The effort to give Montclair an elected Board of Education can be measured in decades, and discussions around the issue have often been bitter. Advocates of both positions were at times too quick to level charges of underhanded tactics and shadowy financial connections. But it is clear that most who have been in the fray have been driven by what they truly believe is in the best interests of the Township, and its children. Those who are now celebrating should be especially mindful of this. And everyone should be grateful for the enormous contribution of many of those who opposed this referendum, who in some cases fought for years for the cause of educational equity, often at no small personal cost.

It should also be remembered that this isn’t an ending but a beginning. An elected board will mean regular elections for this crucial body, starting with a special election for two seats early in 2022, and eventually annual contests for three seats every November, as well as occasional referenda on budget issues. On some of these future election days those who felt like they lost today are likely to feel like they won, and vice-versa. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

The focus now should return to how to drive educational outcomes that benefit our children, and to ensure that the new Type II board will benefit from smart, independent-minded, focused and driven members of our community.

We’d like to thank the many dozens of volunteers who made this effort possible, and to again urge everyone in town to come together and have faith in our capacity for self-government, a capacity that we believe was illustrated by this referendum, and to above all center the members of the community this has been all about, who aren’t yet able to have their voice heard at the polls.

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