In one fell swoop, the proposed changes to the State Board of Education will eliminate the Board’s elected president and vice president.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on State Board of Education nominees was originally scheduled for May 18, and has now been pushed to May 25. Although the Committee is only voting on two nominees, Moorestown Board of Education President Kathy Goldenberg and former Atlantic City Education Association member Nina Washington, Goldenberg’s nomination will eliminate both State Board President Mark Biedron and Vice President Joe Fisicaro. Under the rules governing nominations to the State Board, there can only be one representative from each county. Both Goldenberg and Fisicaro are from Burlington County.
The decision is all the more puzzling since it will dramatically alter the composition of the State Board of Education just months before a new governor is elected. The timing suggests that the State Board nominees are being used as political pawns.
For nearly six months, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held off voting on Gov. Christie’s proposed replacements on the State Board. Over time, the governor’s replacements have also changed. Originally, Washington was due to replace Biedron; she is now replacing Dorothy Strickland. Fisicaro was originally renominated to the Board before his name was withdrawn and Goldenberg was due to replace him. Now, Goldenberg will replace Biedron, effectively knocking out both Biedron and Fisicaro.
Other proposed changes to the Board, if approved, will have long-lasting repercussions. Former NJEA President Edithe Fulton was originally renominated to the Board; under the latest lists, Robert Noonan of Essex County will be replacing her.
With all of the changes and last-minute alterations to the nominations, New Jerseyans are looking at a proposed State Board of Education that values politics and loyalty over what’s good for students and schools. That sends a powerful message about the Senate and the governor’s education agenda.