Canary Carnage!

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What’s the big deal? Corzine eliminates 13 non-operating school districts and everyone’s in a tizzy. Oh, right: it’s the home rule thing, a proud N.J. tradition of valuing local governance and control, and, less righteously, a euphemism for NIMBY (not in my backyard, or keep your kids away from my kids). And let’s not forget the sentiment, “keep your stinking hands off my mayoral/school board member/councilman pedestal.” And, on a fiscal note, “let us be: we love paying school taxes based only on how many kids live in town and not contributing to the general cost of educating kids across New Jersey.”

OK. Maybe it’s a big deal. The local papers think so. Today the Star Ledger Editorial Board says that “the merger is a small but important step in advancing the notion of consolidation and shared services and equity,” adding,

It’s a long delayed attempt to bring some sense and fairness into the way we pay for our schools.
It’s too bad it took 40 years.

The Record agrees:

With one signature, the governor’s action means schools will operate more efficiently and be financed more fairly without any loss of education quality for the students involved. It fulfills all of the attributes of genuine education reform

Bob Ingle of Politics Patrol cuts to the chase:

Often we talk about how ridiculous it is to have 616 school districts in New Jersey. Now we can talk about how ridiculous it is to have 603 districts in New Jersey

The Philadelphia Inquirer is less sanguine, pointing out that the non-ops were, in some cases, quite efficient, and quoting the Business Administrator for to-be-eliminated Pemberton School District:

It’s a precursor to what’s going to happen. If a district doesn’t choose to regionalize, it’s going to be rammed down their throats.”

Finally, the New Jersey School Boards Association’s resident blogger squawks over the dreadful implications:

While I have many concerns that this law will negatively impact the residents of these small communities, I am even more concerned that this process could be a precursor of things to come. Since the send-all districts have no buildings and are extremely small and represent very few voters, they have always been prime targets for elimination. Most districts might tell themselves that they are larger, and that they have their own buildings so they are not a target for elimination. I would tell these districts that the non-ops might be like the canaries in the coal mines. Once upon a time, miners brought canaries into coal mines because canaries are extremely sensitive to deadly gases. If the canary died, the miners knew dangerous gases were building up, and they should get out of the mine immediately. Many of our districts should at least take note of the demise of the send-all districts.

Canaries in a coal mine? Or an harbinger of a more efficient and less segregated public school system, a lower cost per pupil, a landscape rid of gratuitous schools board members and administrators? Guess it depends on where your roost is.

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