Politico’s Carly Sitrin has a piece today on the frantic search for school bus drivers in New Jersey. In the course of interviewing multiple parents and school leaders, one continuous theme emerges: the Murphy Administration’s Education Department is once again failing to exercise statewide leadership and the Governor has no problem with that.
Here are some examples from Politico’s article that communicate the public’s frustration:
“Three weeks into the school year, parents and school leaders say the shortage is becoming a crisis and they’re demanding the state take action.”
“It’s unclear how widespread the driver shortage is in New Jersey. The state Department of Education did not respond to multiple requests for comment or to answer questions about how many districts they’ve heard from with busing issues.”
“New Jersey has not yet presented a statewide plan, though individual districts are patching together fixes where they can, including offering parents cash to transport their kids and launching social media campaigns to recruit community members to apply for CDLs.”
“School leaders told POLITICO the issue is too big to tackle on a local level — the preferred problem-solving method of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Department of Education.”
Then Sitrin lists the ways other governors and state education departments, unlike New Jersey’s, are stepping up to help alleviate the bus driver shortage instead of leaving each district to manage their own transportation woes. She quotes Paterson Superintendent Eileen Shafer:
“Shafer said she’s reached out to the state Department of Education to request help and offer solutions, such as paying parents to drive their kids to school, enlisting the help of local police and firefighters, even calling in the National Guard as Massachusetts has done.
However, the DOE did not respond to her requests for help and at recent COVID briefing “Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan…did not weigh in.”
“[P]arents POLITICO spoke to said they’re watching as governors and school leaders in Ohio, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland take action or at the very least, acknowledge the problem. It’s been crickets in New Jersey, parents said.”
Of course, Gov. Murphy is ultimately responsible for inaction from the state DOE. While he’s received generally high marks for his handling of the pandemic (except for the nursing home deaths), he’s started to attract some pushback, especially from his new order that two-year-olds in daycare must wear masks, an unrealistic endeavor at best. The danger isn’t that it “brings me no joy,” as Murphy said about his preschool mask mandate, but that citizens start losing faith in the government’s ability to manage a crisis.
When parents start saying, “it’s crickets in New Jersey,” they’re starting to lose faith.
Is Gov. Murphy going to close day care centers or have toddlers carted off to jail when they rip their masks off? It’s hard to imagine this toddler mask mandate is enforceable in any way that doesn’t do more harm than good. So what’s the point? https://t.co/2f7XimLjFP
— Senator Michael Testa (@senatortesta) September 21, 2021