NJEA: Having it Both WaysFebruary 26, 2009
Ravitch on Obama and ChartersFebruary 26, 2009
Education Commissioner Lucille Davy continues to argue for school consolidation this week during an interview with Asbury Park Press editorial board. You’ve got to give her points for consistency: in spite of a plethora of challenges from NJSBA (see here), NJEA, members of the State Assembly and other assorted local officials who have much power at stake, she is standing firm as the DOE and Corzine try to rein in our troubled school system. From the Asbury Park Press report:
State Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy believes that consolidation of school districts to create kindergarten-to-12th-grade districts would provide students with a more organized, broader educational experience than the current system, which includes elementary-only and high school-only districts.
She’s right, though the most compelling argument has less to do with the quality of education than the standardization of education in New Jersey. Why? Because Davy and Corzine know that the current Abbott funding formula is unsustainable, given the growth of poverty in districts outside of the anointed 31, and the only way to fairly apportion extra aid has to be student-driven instead of district-driven (the philosophy behind the State Funding Reform Act). And the only way to funnel extra money to individual students is to have system-wide curricula, system-wide cost-per-pupil, system-wide graduation requirements.
It’s a great idea if you live in a lower-performing, less wealthy district (not a direct correlation, but it’s a least an indirect one) and a terrible idea if you live in a high-performing rich district.
But then her comments get a bit sketchy as she segues into accountability regulations and accuses local districts of “poor judgment.” Really, guys, how many times can we use the examples of the Keansburg superintendent who walked about with $740K (in an Abbott district, by the way, that was under State oversight) and the Freehold Regional Board who happened to think that doctorates are earned with a postage stamp and a check? Bad jobs on the part of the State and the two school boards, but hardly an indictment of the governance of all the 614 other districts. Yet Davy jumps right in:
“We’re leaving a lot less to chance for local boards,” Davy said. But, it is unfortunate that these “stewards of local taxpayer dollars” had not been more vigilant, she said.
“I really think professional adults should know for themselves that, when they’re going to give you a doctorate for (very little money), that something isn’t quite right,” she said.
It’s a cheap and gratuitous shot. Most school boards do a good job and, anyway, their performance is beside the point in the argument for consolidation. We have to muster the will, and the State has to muster the muscle, to consolidate and standardize our schools because it’s the right thing to do. We have a State where the educational disparity among districts is a gaping chasm. It’s bad for kids. That’s the argument.