More School Cuts:
With State revenues down substantially – 7% in most categories – Corzine is including mid-year cuts in his budget address on March 10th. The Star-Ledger reports that school aid will be cut by $75,000,000 and school boards are sweating as they brace themselves for atypical staff-layoffs, programming cuts, and professional development freezes.
The Asbury Park Press reams out the Middletown Board of Education for reducing school board meetings to once a month because of “squabbling among board members.” After a barrage of public condemnation and the resignation of a board member in protest, the Board reinstated the extra meeting. Expect some board turnover in April.
The Asbury Park Press addresses the sobering fact that poor kids struggle academically, regardless of where they go to school:
Data included in the state school report cards released Wednesday by the state Department of Education show that across the board, test scores improve in wealthier districts. But poor students do not show the same rate of progress. Almost a third of disadvantaged students who live in suburban districts still fail state tests, compared with less than 10 percent of all other students.
John Mooney, former education writer for the Star-Ledger and current education writer for the New York Times, looks at how some New Jersey public schools based on vo-tech models – like Communications High School, High Tech High School and Academy for Math, Science and Engineering – are outperforming our academic all-star schools like Princeton and Millburn.
What’s That About Equity?
Chuck Wehrle, a Montvale borough councilman, decries any advantage to regionalizing school districts. In an editorial in NorthJersey on the Pascack Valley High School District, which takes kids from 4 surrounding towns, he explains how unfair it is for residents of Montvale, one of the feeders, to pay more per pupil because the value of its property is higher. He puts it succinctly:
Any school district knowing Montvale’s experience would be insane to merge with another.
So, how do we make it fair? Just for argument’s sake, let’s think of public education as a commodity. In fact, the DOE is pushing this type of model: assembly-line curricula, high school graduation requirements, efficiency standards. It’s all interchangeable, right? Wehrle’s argument is based on economics – school costs come from local property taxes so it’s not fair that Montvale pays more for the same commodity – and it’s a compelling argument. Why should wealthier residents pay more for the same product than poorer residents? Why should wealthy towns pay more for the same product than poorer towns? Why should wealthy towns have to share their superior/more expensive product with poorer neighbors? (Yeah, we know it’s a commodity, but let’s get real.) Until the State comes up with an acceptable answer, or at least gets a discussion going, we’re going to have a hard time finding fiscal economies in New Jersey’s bloated public school system .