Last Wednesday, Sen. James Skoufis announced that his bill, S.7587, which permits school boards of education in Orange County to opt-into a ward system for school board elections, passed the State Senate.
School districts in New York State typically span through multiple towns and often include various competing interests. One way to safeguard equal representation across an entire district is to elect candidates from each geographic component of the community. In order to prevent overrepresentation or underrepresentation of one geographical area over the other on a school board, this legislation gives voters the option to approve a referendum that requires candidates reside in the respective election district.
“In all our communities, establishing school wards is a common-sense measure to ensure fair and equal representation in education,” Skoufis said. “A number of our local school districts have requested this and I was proud to fight for the passage of this bill in Albany. Providing school districts with this option is a win-win for students and families because when more people’s voices can be heard, we can create a better system of education for our students.”
The bill has been well received by Orange County residents.
Matthew Watkins, a member of the Pine Bush Central School District Board of Education, believes that the ward system would provide the massive district with equal representation.
“There’s nothing wrong with having fair representation around our community from all different areas,” he said. “That’s something that we always try to do. We do have several different geographic locations of individuals in our community. Personally, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have representation throughout, instead of having something loaded from one community.”
Pine Bush officials have, in recent years, expressed concern that a large-scale development, like the Chestnut Ridge project proposed for Bloomingburg several years ago, could one day product a school board stacked with members from one portion of the district who could then dominate the board.
The Assembly version of the bill is currently in the Education Committee and Skoufis called on the Assembly to get this passed before the end of legislative session.