Border Patrol at Montclair High School

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How far is it from Newark to Montclair? According to Mapquest it’s a mere 10.72 miles, but that’s where the camaraderie ends. Friday’s Montclair Times describes a new registration procedure at Montclair High School for all current students as well as incoming freshmen:

To establish proof of residency, parents will be required to present a Montclair township property tax bill, mortgage statement or signed contract of purchase; or a signed notarized Sworn Statement of Tenancy (affidavit) completed by their landlord.

Parents will also need to produce any three of the following documents containing a Montclair address including: a driver’s license plus registration and auto insurance card; a current utility, cable television or credit card bill; a written statement from realtor stating the parent/guardian has signed a contract to purchase or rent in Montclair; a mortgage statement; a bank statement, or government correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service, state Division of Taxation, or Social Security Administration; public assistance documents from Aid For Dependent Children or Women, Infants and Children program; an income tax return; a voter registration card or unemployment benefits verification; or a recent paycheck stub.

The district’s statement reminded parents that only students of families residing in Montclair are eligible to attend the Montclair Public Schools. The district is not participating in the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program created through recent state legislation.

Jeez: it’s like Montclair is Brownsville, Texas, armed school district officials crouching in foxholes, guns aimed at Mexicans desperately seeking sanctuary from drug-plagued Matamoros, just across the Rio Grande. Of course, in this scenario the illegals hail from Newark.

What difference does ten miles make? At both Monclair High School and Barringer High School in Newark, high schoolers have to take the HSPA, the high school proficiency test, in language arts and math. At Montclair, according to the most recent DOE data, 58.7% of kids score “proficient” in language arts and 30.9% score “advanced proficient.” At Barringer 38.7% of kids score proficient, 0% score “advanced proficient;” in fact, 61.3% failed. In math at Montclair 42.5% of kids score “proficient” and 34.8% score “advanced proficient.” At Barringer 25.5% score “proficient,” 0.5% score “advanced proficient;” 74% of kids failed.

Montclair High School offers 25 A.P. courses, including Latin:Vergil, Microeconomics, and Physics C. 22.9% of juniors and seniors participate in the A.P. program. Barringer High School offers 4 A.P. courses; junior and senior participation rate is 4%.

There are 5,705 kids on the rolls in the Montclair Public School System. Their superintendent, Dr. Frank Alvarez, makes $216,083 (at least until his contract is up and he hits the newly superintendent salary cap of $175K for a district of Montclair’s size). There are 38,442 children on the roll at Newark City Public School District. Cami Anderson, the new superintendent makes $240K. (Should there be any correlation between number of kids served and superintendent salary? Maybe yes, maybe no. If you’re counting, Dr. Alvarez makes $38 per kids and Dr. Anderson makes $6 a kid.)

Here’s all the material parents must submit to prove that they legally live in Montclair and not that unnamed outpost. And, yes, it’s true that Montclair does not participate in NJ’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which would allow kids in neighboring districts to apply for empty seats in a more desirable school system. In fact, not a single school district in Essex County participates in the program so it’s unlikely that Newark parents would be otherwise informed.

I suppose you can hardly blame high-achieving Montclair High School, ranked 94th best in the state by NJ Monthly. (Barringer High School is ranked 311th.) No doubt there are parents of Barringer students who would stoop at nothing to cross the Rio Grande to the promised land. Offense is the best defense and all that.

There’s a lot of talk of educational equity in the Statehouse, mainly in the context of school aid. That’s all worth less than a hill of beans (ha! Mexico reference!) if we can’t do better at bridging the divide between Montclair and Newark.

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  • Bruce, July 13, 2011 @ 1:55 pm Reply

    School districting lies at the very heart of American inequality. This is one reason school choice, through charter schools and vouchers, is part of the solution: so as not to leave the poor locked into scholastic ghettos from which too few escape.

  • elmer, October 9, 2011 @ 1:03 pm Reply

    Just between you and me, I checked out the NJ laws on line. I can give the links, but it was quite clear that Montclair Bd of Ed was bluffing. They had the right to ask for the proof. But if they weren't satisfied, they were required to make a specific allegation in writing. At that point, you could either back down or go for a hearing. Then there were multiple layers of hearings and appeals. At all stages, your kid still got to stay right where he/she was. So I walked in 1st day of school and said “where's my child's schedule?” They said “where's your passport, etc.” I waved a copy of the NJ law in front of their face. After a bit of polite niceties, they handed me my child's schedule. BTW, ironically, I was told informally that the most frequent “moochers” were not from Newark, but were from Clifton, Verona, Little Falls, Nutley, etc. Go figure. Maybe the folks from Newark are so beaten down, they can't even get it together to barge into Montclair.

    Bottom line, I agree with your point 100%. Every child has the right to a free and appropriate public education. Education is the cornerstone of our democracy. Power to the people! If somebody were to organize a demonstration to demand full funding for ALL of the public schools, I'll march.

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