Sunday Leftovers

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Tom Moran at the Star Ledger has a must-read editorial this morning that begin, “[t]he political meltdown in Newark over school reform has reached an alarming stage and now threatens to derail the entire effort.” I’ve written about this here,  here,  and here.

In case you were wondering, “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the state’s schoolchildren will have to make up the snow days they’ve missed in this unusually harsh winter.”

Everyone is  thrilled at Christie’s nomination of David Hespe to replace former Ed. Comm. Chris Cerf. Lawrence Feinsod at NJ School Boards Association says, “I can’t think of a better choice for the position… He is genuine in his support for public education and in his dedication to students. We look forward to working with him.” Here’s related news on Hespe from NJ Spotlight, The Record, and the Asbury Park Press.

The Daily Journal: “A district survey last year found four of every five students in Camden’s middle and high schools don’t feel safe going to and from school, and half of elementary students fear for their safety in hallways and bathrooms.To remedy that, city, police and school officials gathered this week at Woodrow Wilson High School to announce a comprehensive five-point safety plan.”

Hola, a successful dual-language charter school in Hoboken with far more applicants than seats, wants to expand by one grade level, says the Star Ledger,  but “the local superintendent, Mark Toback, is trying to stop them.”

The public relations chair of the Camden Education Association argues against charter schools.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Philadelphia charter school powerhouse Mastery Schools was given the green light Friday to operate in Camden, where the organization also hopes to open a “Renaissance” school through a separate application process.”

Across the Hudson, “this is a high-noon moment for charters. These three [NY Gov. Cuomo, President Obama, and Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan] can either get out in public to defend these schools, or pull down the shades while Bill de Blasio and his union pals kill them off one by one over the next four years.” 

Great Mark Magyar analysis of NJ’s public employee pension woes and the political strategies of Christie and Sweeney.

The Jersey Journal lists top pension recipients in NJ.  First on the list is former Jersey City superintendent Charles Epps, who gets $195K per year. “Coming in at No. 4 is retired North Bergen High School football coach Vincent Ascolese, who has a $180,180 pension, while former North Bergen schools chief Robert Dandorph is at No. 9 with $159,900.”

Paterson Public Schools will face a “fiscal cliff” next year, reports the Record, and the school board is wrestling with options. Hamilton (Mercer County) is also experiencing difficulties that include technology needs and a a $6.7 million special needs spending plan.

A NJ school board member who describes himself as representing an “under aided, overtaxed, budget-pressured district in Essex County” writes in the Alternative Press that NJ’s Interdistrict t Public School Choice Program “is a great idea in theory” but “the bottom line is that its cost growth is unsustainable, the funding formula grossly overpays receiving districts, and Choice money aggravates existing funding disparities between New Jersey districts.  Interdistrict Choice provides benefits to a small number of students and districts, but at the expense of the vast majority of New Jersey students and districts that do not and cannot participate.”

In related news,  The Press of Atlantic City looks at state school aid figures, with a focus on Interdistrict Public School Choice districts. One extreme example: ” In West Cape May, choice aid makes up all but $80,000 of its total $508,000 in state aid.”

From the Wall St. Journal: “A long-simmering movement to scale back the use of standardized tests in K-12 education is beginning to see results, with policy makers and politicians in several states limiting—or trying to limit—the time used for assessments, or delaying the consequences tied to them.”

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  • kallikak, March 2, 2014 @ 5:48 pm Reply

    “This moment is too important to allow a rowdy gaggle to derail the conversation.”

    If that's how describe the legitimate stakeholders in the NPS (as opposed to the Broad Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg and some hedge-fund dead-enders) Tom, it's time for you to hang'em up.

  • JSB79, March 3, 2014 @ 2:00 am Reply

    I'm (tentatively) glad that the huge distortions and inequities that NJ's Interdistrict Choice program is creating is starting to get some attention.

    It's completely unfair that hundreds of districts across NJ are below adequacy and only get an additional $20 this year while Choice districts (which may only be accepting a handful of additional students) get enormous windfalls. It is unfair that many middle class districts (Bergen, Essex, and Union counties do particularly badly) get state aid in the 4-10% range while small districts – including Deal, Stockton, and West Cape May – get 30-45% of their budgets paid for through this one revenue stream alone.

    Let's just look at the _increases_ some Choice districts are getting for 2014-15.
    Island Heights got 141%. ($1306 per student in additional aid)
    Beach Haven got 66%. ($808 per student in additional aid)
    Wildwood Crest got 30% ($581 per student in additional aid)
    Haddon Heights got 26%. ($259 per student in additional aid)
    Long Beach Island got 20%. ($458 per student in additional aid)
    Franklin Township (Hntrdn) got 17% ($142 per student in additional aid)
    Ocean City got 12.4% ($193 per student in additional aid)
    Hopewell Valley Regional got 9.9% ($68 per student in additional aid)
    Byram got 8.5% ($303 per student in additional aid)
    West Cape May got 5.9% ($378 per student in additional aid)
    Oaklyn Boro 5.9% ($329 per student in additional aid)

    When Choice districts gain students they gain money, but when they lose students they keep the Choice money they got at their maximum Choice enrollment. It's a one-way ratchet up that deprives other districts of needed revenues.

    What is little known is that Choice districts keep extra aid even when they lose Choice students. When a Choice district loses Choice students that aid is just rechanneled into Additional Adjustment Aid.

    For example:

    Englewood must have lost Choice students between 2013-14 and 2014-15, because their Choice Aid went from getting $5 mil in 2013-14 to $4.5 mil in 2014-15. Despite losing population, they are now getting another $500,000 in Additional Adjustment Aid. That works out to $158 per student. (the exact amount is unknowable because 2014-15 enrollment is unknown.)

    Hoboken must have lost Choice students between 2013-14 and 2014-15 because their Choice Aid dropped from $2.8 million to $2.56 million. Even though Hoboken is already the most overaided large district in NJ, they got $255,000 in Additional Adjustment Aid for 2014-15. That works out to $97 per student.

    Brooklawn got $803,000 in Choice Aid in 2013-14. They are getting $661,000 for 2014-15. Guess what? They are getting $142,000 in Additional Adjustment Aid for 2014-15. That works out to $355 per student.

    Clinton Township got $1.5 million in Choice Aid in 2013-14. They are getting $1.288 mil in 2014-15. They are getting $169,000 in Additional Adjustment Aid. That works out to $108 per student.

    I believe kids should have choices over their education, but this program has got to be reformed!

  • kallikak, March 3, 2014 @ 5:33 am Reply

    Tom Moran falls into the trap: “To get an idea of what Anderson is up against, consider the pending teacher layoffs. She has to shrink her teaching staff by 30 percent over the next three years, thanks to the shrinking population of district schools.”

    Is the public school population shrinking because of a mass exodus from Newark? Hardly. Dr. Bruce Baker nails it:

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