An Assembly panel on Monday approved bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak and Speaker Vincent Prieto to prevent convicted criminals from running for election to a board of education.
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.”
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 sponsored by Karabinchak and Prieto 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 measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.