That’s Gregg Edwards, President of Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, editorializing on a 2004 analysis from the Manhattan Institute called “The Teachability Index: Can Disadvantaged Students Learn?” The study analyzed student demographics and cost-per-pupil across the country. The results, in a nutshell, are that out of the 48 states evaluated, N.J. ranks 46th in efficiency. Edwards’ point is that our inefficiency is not the fault of the high-poverty urban Abbott districts, but is tied directly to overspending in suburban districts.
So, why do we overspend in suburban districts? Easy – our addiction to local control. In today’s Courier Post there’s a piece on Chesilhurst, a tiny borough in Camden County with 493 households. Lucille Davy just upheld a decision to deny an appeal from the borough to stop the DOE from shutting down Shirley B. Foster Elementary School, which educates a grand total of 104 kids. DOE regulations mandate that non-operating school districts can be consolidated without a vote from taxpayers. Chesilhurst thought the presence of an active albeit tiny school would keep it off the list. But instead it becomes the 26th of non-ops eliminated by the State.
Chesilhurst residents seem mighty unhappy because the consolidation comes with a price tag of $18,000 per kid. On the other hand, the total cost per pupil in Shirley Foster Elementary, according to DOE data, was $16,865 last year. So the anger is over the loss of local control and, perhaps, some hard feelings over past discrimination. From the Courier Post:
Some of the borough’s 1,900 residents, the majority of whom are black, feel strongly that the school should remain open because they recall their children being treated inferiorly when they attended mostly white Hammonton schools for nearly 40 years.
What’s a thousand bucks here or there? Seriously, we can complain all we want about profligacy in our public schools, but it’s not worth the whine unless we man up and sacrifice local control for efficiency.