New Jersey legislators are starting to acknowledge that our school funding formula is unsustainable and broken, underfunding some districts and overfunding others, including a few long-ago designated “Abbotts.” (Looking at you, Jersey City and Hoboken.) All hail the honesty of Senate President Steve Sweeney, who tells the Press of Atlantic City that “there are some districts that get more money than they are entitled to. We are going to have pretty serious discussions and a lot of people [translation: Education Law Center, NJEA] won’t like it.”
Sweeney said 37 percent of the state budget already goes to cover state aid to school districts and other school-related costs, so just saying “add more money” is not a long-term viable solution. “How much more state aid can go to just one area of state government?” he said.
More coverage here from NJ Spotlight. For great analysis see New Jersey Education Aid, which generally exposes the mess that is NJ’s school funding allocations and, in particular, events like Ed. Comm. David Hespe’s speech at the NJ School Boards convention this week: “Commissioner of Education David Hespe has acknowledged that SFRA cannot be fully funded in the foreseeable future and that the only way to help NJ’s most underaided districts is redistribution.” And don’t miss his post called “If the Abbott list was updated, who would be on it?“
Star-Ledger: “Nearly half of Newark’s elected school board are employed by the city or one of its agencies, though they insist their jobs will not compromise their positions as the state prepares to place much of the oversight of the city’s schools in their hands…Mayor Ras Baraka, widely considered a leading voice against state oversight of the schools, backed more than half of the board as members of his annual “Children First” slate, dating back to his tenure as South Ward Councilman.
Since he took office in July 2014, at least three of those have been hired by the city or one of its agencies – including two of the three members he campaigned for in 2015, Marques-Aquil Lewis and Dashay Carter.”
The Star-Ledger says of the release of NJ’s PARCC scores, “education experts say its too soon to draw major conclusions from the PARCC results, which showed that most New Jersey students failed to perform on grade-level on the exams. No more than 52 percent of students in any grade tested met the targeted benchmarks in English or math.”
Former Governor Tom Kean says that the new standards-aligned assessment system will help close the “honesty gap” in N.J.
And NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer lauded results on the NAEP tests: “This year’s NAEP results are yet another data point supporting what we have known for a long time. New Jersey’s public schools are among the very best in the nation.”
Steinhauer also writes in the Asbury Park Press that his leadership will refuse to consider any more pension reform (even though the system will go bottom-up in twelve years).
Great Oaks Charter School (Newark) held a ribbon-cutting for its new building. One student, Nisly Baez, “said she was ‘falling behind’ when she arrived at Great Oaks, but is now taking classes like pre-calculus, running for senior class president and filling her afternoons with basketball practice and meetings of the tea tasting club.” Exec. Dir. Jared Taillefer explained how Great Oaks makes it work:
Those options were not the result of more funding, but simply an educational model that would likely not be available to public school students due to union contracts and other red tape. For example, class sizes at Great Oaks often exceed 30 students —something administrators are willing to concede in order to employ more tutors.
“We’re creating an innovative model. What we should be doing (with public schools) is sharing best practices,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of political fray at the top that sadly is getting a lot of parents and families caught up…we’ve got to find a middle ground to work together.
Tuesday is Election Day, including school board elections. Lakewood’s is “invisible,” with candidates refusing to respond to media interviews. That’s because the Lakewood Vaad, the Orthodox municipal leadership, already told people who to vote for. “Township officials estimate that more than half of Lakewood’s population is Orthodox, and the Vaad’s endorsements are generally a reliable predictor of the election’s outcome.”