Voting. Skoufis advances legislation to stablish ward systems for school board elections

Orange /
| 01 Jun 2021 | 11:19

    State Sen. James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) announced the passage of his bill through the Senate on Tuesday to allow Orange County school districts to establish wards for school board elections.

    If passed by the Assembly and signed into law, Skoufis said this legislation could have a transformational impact on local schools, ensuring school boards that choose to opt into a ward system are truly representative of the communities they serve. A similar bill for Rockland County that Skoufis co-sponsors also passed the Senate.

    Under a ward system, neighborhoods would elect their own members to the school board in order to ensure equal representation - and make certain no single community can dominate the entire board.

    This legislation follows a years-long battle between Rockland County’s East Ramapo School District and local community members over the disenfranchisement of students. As a result of a successful legal challenge by the NAACP, East Ramapo was mandated to establish an election-by-ward system, ensuring that each board seat is filled by a diverse mix of community voices.

    By bringing the option of ward-based school board elections to communities throughout Orange and Rockland counties, schools can proactively address the need for representative leadership.

    Under this legislation, sitting school board members would have to support establishing a ward system before district residents could formally vote on it, and wards would be determined by population and updated after each new census.

    “With this legislation, school leadership can ensure one community member from each local ward has a seat at the table,” Skoufis said. “This would be a tremendously powerful tool in the fight against disenfranchisement and underrepresentation in our educational settings.”

    The bill now requires passage in the State Assembly. Senator Skoufis remains committed to equitable, high-quality education for all students.