A bill aimed at getting more people to run for school board seats has become law.
The legislation, signed Friday by Gov. Christie, extends the deadline for filing nominating petitions for school board candidacy in the November general election from the date of the June primary to the last Monday in July.
Had the governor signed the bill after Tuesday, it would not have gone into effect until 2015.
In 2012, the Legislature sought to increase voter participation by giving districts the option of moving school board elections from the traditional third Tuesday in April to the higher-turnout November elections.
State Sen. James Whelan (D., Atlantic), who sponsored the new law, said the revision in filing deadlines would further the goal.
"With the filing deadline falling in the spring, when many families were busy with end-of-year activities from vacations to graduations, we were concerned that many qualified candidates were choosing not to run," Whelan said.
"By moving the filing deadline to July, I am hopeful that we can grow the number of quality individuals who run to represent their communities and our children on school boards."
The New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and the Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey all supported the legislation.
"By moving the filing deadline for school board positions, which are nonpartisan, closer to the general election, the legislation should encourage more citizens to seek school board candidacy," School Boards Association executive director Lawrence S. Feinsod said.
Frank Belluscio, the association's deputy executive director, said a little more than 500 districts now have school board elections in November, while 38 have opted to continue to hold April elections. While specific numbers are not available, the change is believed to have increased voter participation, he said. Before, the typical statewide school board election turnout was about 15 percent.
This November, the number of candidates per available seats fell to 1.23, and in November 2012, it was 1.25, compared with 1.37 in April 2013, 1.44 in April 2012, and 1.38 in April 2011 before the law changed, according to the School Boards Association.
"We did see the June filing deadline as problematic," Belluscio said. "It was too early."
The law also makes some other changes to the school election process.
They include establishing a timeline for determining the length of service for people appointed to fill school board vacancies, and requiring municipal governing bodies that are considering changing a school election date to give the affected board adequate notice of the meeting at which the resolution will be voted on.
The 2012 law allows communities to change their elections from April to November through a school board resolution, a municipal governing body resolution, or a referendum.