(TRENTON) – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman Jamel Holley to prevent convicted criminals from running for election to a board of education received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill (A-4206) was inspired by a situation this fall where an Edison resident attempted to run for school board after previously serving six months in a federal prison for falsifying immigration documents in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from illegal immigrants.
“Men and women who seek election to school boards are ultimately responsible for the education, safety, health and welfare of our children,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Protecting our students and setting good examples is our top priority, which makes it crucial that we preserve the sanctity of our school boards.”
“School board members are the guardians of our children’s education and must lead by example,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This bill will ensure that convicted criminals are not elected to these posts while also ensuring that taxpayers’ time and money are not wasted should they attempt to run.”
“This is about ensuring the integrity of our school systems and making sure those in charge lead by example and are people our children can look up to,” said Holley (D-Union). “Given the weight of their responsibilities, this is a reasonable requirement.”
Under current law, a person is disqualified from membership on a board of education or a charter school board of trustees if they have been convicted of certain crimes or offenses specified by law, which includes, among other things: any crime of the first or second degree; endangering the welfare of a child; drug possession or distribution; robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, arson, manslaughter and murder; terroristic threats; criminal restraint; perjury, bias intimidation.
However, the law does not require a member to undergo a criminal background check until after they are elected, a process that must be undergone within 30 days of election or appointment to the school board.
The bill would require a school board candidate to file with his nominating petition a specific affirmation that he has not been convicted of any of the disqualifying crimes specified by law.
The bill was approved 38-0 by the Senate on June 22, and 72-0 by the Assembly in March.