All 13 members of the New Jersey Board of Education will be sitting in expired seats by the end of the school year unless the state Legislature approves three new members Gov. Phil Murphy nominated in September.
Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, said Murphy could avoid delays related to senatorial courtesy by appointing people who live in districts with senators who usually vote with the governor.
Rubin said that during Murphy’s first term, he could not be sure the state Senate would confirm his appointees because then-Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, had worked with Christie in support of his school board candidates.
“Sweeney made it really clear he wasn’t going to move any of his nominees,” she said of Murphy. She said the two had different philosophies of education, particularly regarding charter schools and standardized tests. Nominating new board members would have cost Murphy “a lot of political capital,” she said.
Rubin, who directs the public policy program at the school, noted that education is a very thorny political issue, particularly in the face of partisan battles over book bans and sex education standards. And unlike other states with Democratic governors and legislatures, in New Jersey, partisan in-fighting over education is more common.
Both Democrats and Republicans attacked Murphy over charter schools and high-stakes testing, she said.
“New Jersey is kind of an outlier that Democrats go after him on these issues,” she said. “It’s a machine-controlled state, so it doesn’t act like other states with partisan politics.”
But inaction has its dangers, Rubin said. “The challenge is, if (Murphy) leaves 13 spots for his successor, they may have a very different view of public education,” she said. “That’s a huge red flag for him if he cares about his vision of public schools.”