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Legislation Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green and Assemblymen Jack Conners and Herb Conaway, M.D., sponsored to tighten requirements for serving on boards of education was approved by the Senate Education Committee. The bill (A-444/S-295), which passed the Assembly unanimously in June, now heads to the full Senate for final legislative approval.

“If we prohibit someone from teaching in a classroom because of past convictions, then they definitely should be prohibited from presiding over the education of an entire school district,” said Green (D-Union). “It’s a common sense change that is long overdue.”

Under the bill any person elected or appointed to a board of education would be disqualified from serving if they currently or previously have been convicted of any crime that, under existing law, would disqualify them from being employed in a public school.

“People guilty of serious crimes should not be the ones to decide the educational future of our children,” said Conners (D-Camden). “Our students deserve an education system that is supported by the integrity of its members.”

The bill also would require each member of a board of education to undergo a criminal history background check within 30 days of being elected or appointed.

Furthermore, it would amend the oath of office taken by new board members to include a specific declaration that the member is not disqualified from service due to conviction of one of those crimes. Any member who falsely swears that he or she is not disqualified would face penalties of up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines.

“A good education is the foundation upon which our lives our built,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “We owe it to both students and parents to only have the most qualified individuals presiding over the education future of our children.”