Quote of the Day IApril 2, 2009
Quote of the Day IIApril 2, 2009
Is school district consolidation efficient or inefficient? Today’s papers give us both sides of the argument. First, the Asbury Park Press reports on a panel discussion in Freehold hosted by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Participants included Bruce Baker of Rutgers University, Monmouth County Executive Superintendent Carole Knopp Morris, and State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth. Morris, who has been outspoken about the potential benefits of consolidation in Monmouth, said that creating all K-12 districts would “improve programs and be more cost-effective.” Senator Beck was a bit more circumspect, remarking that the need for voter approval in every affected town might quash any consolidations.
However, over in Mulshine-land, the inimitable columnist for the Star-Ledger gives us his bottom line:
They say that bigger isn’t always better.
But dumber is always dumber.
He’s talking generally about the D.O.E.’s mandate that all non-operating school districts be merged into their receiving districts, and specifically about the tiny town of Glen Gardner in Hunterdon County, population 1,902. Elementary-age children go to Clinton Public School and high school kids go to Voorhees High School, part of the North-Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional School District. Of course, Glen Gardner still has a school board that mainly writes checks to Clinton and Voorhees. Mulshine argues that this is a beneficial arrangement all around and that eliminating non-operating districts will only raise taxes and benefit union employees. The D.O.E., when queried, was less than helpful:
[Clinton Mayor Christine] Schaumberg complained that the state Department of Education won’t tell the town just how or when this merger will be imposed. Department spokesperson Kathy Forsyth told me, “We know there are a lot of issues surrounding the non-operating districts. The department is working on all these issues and we hope to have a solution soon.”
To cap off the debate, Governor Corzine weighed in during a question and answer session with community newspapers at Drumthwackett. CentralJersey reports that his determination to press for consolidation among school districts and municipalities is strong, despite the “difficulty of overcoming grass roots ‘home rule’ resistance.” When asked specifically about the need for non-operating school districts – like Glen Gardner – to maintain school boards to oversee their own students, Corzine replied,
”You would think that you could put together a system that watches out for the spending and the education of the children without having to have another administration.”
The governor said that the multiplicity of governments and districts of all kinds in New Jersey is “one of our biggest problems on cost and, I think, on corruption … so many units and levels without transparency.”
He said that public resistance to consolidation was, in part, due to “a historic failure of political courage. It will only change when people feel and are convinced by their political leadership. … People have to vote for the people that they think will make this change.”
So there you have it. Mulshine waxes lyrical over Glen Gardner’s charm, describing “driving past that red mill on a pond that has graced a thousand postcards and calendars.” Corzine talks about trust issues that interfere with a delegation of control and corruption due to New Jersey’s 1,900 governmental units. Executive County Superintendent Morris’s favorite word is “efficiency,” but the odds seem slim that every affected district will support a consolidation proposal.
We’re not quite there yet.