NEA on Merit PayJune 2, 2009
Does That Include Lunch?June 4, 2009
About two weeks ago, Education Commissioner Lucille Davy sent a memo to N.J. superintendents and special education directors. The purpose of her memo was to “clarify” rules regarding the placement of special education students and “the role given to the Executive County Superintendent (E.C.S.’s) regarding the collection and dissemination of information regarding available in-district programs.”
Here’s the real deal: the D.O.E. issued hundreds of pages of fiscal accountability regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A) during several months last summer and there are some real glitches. One of the glitches was awarding E.C.S.’s the right to inject themselves into the process of determining placement for children with disabilities, which is a clear violation of Federal law.
Properly, the D.O.E. has backtracked (after some lobbying on the part of various advocacy groups: ASAH, New Jersey Coalition for Special Education, Disability Rights N.J.; even the Education Law Center got involved), “clarified” its intent and gone back and made appropriate changes. Bully for them. But how could they have gotten this wrong in the first place? The point – that placement is the sole provenance of the I.E.P. team — is not obscure. It’s really Special Education 101. Who’s vetting these regulations?
To followers of the D.O.E., it’s a familiar lapse of oversight.
An editorial in the Asbury Park Press on Monday echoes this pattern, this time in the realm of school district consolidation, also under the purview of our E.C.S.’s. All our superheroes are under mandate to issue consolidation recommendations, specifically for districts that are not K-12th grade. In all, the 21 E.C.S’s are going to recommend 127 various mergers and then tell the affected districts to pay for feasibility studies. Writes the Press,
Those that pass the feasibility test will be put to a vote in each affected community in September. The merger won’t proceed unless voters in each community approve it. There is a fat chance of that happening in most communities targeted for consolidation… feasibility studies are a waste of time and money.
The Press is right. The current process of recommendations and feasibility studies is a waste of time and money. If Corzine is intent on consolidation – and he should be: he’s dead-on about that – then he’s going to have to play political hardball. Have the State fund the feasibility studies, offer incentives to communities that will pay higher taxes (there will always be one, which is why any proposal won’t pass muster with voters), take a hard line with NJEA so that the consolidated district is not stuck with the most generous contract (how about taking an average?).
It’s another screw-up for the D.O.E., an overreaching of the roles of the great and powerful E.C.S.’s. While the original regulations regarding special education placement gave the E.C.S.’s too much power (as to be illegal), the regulations regarding consolidation are so weak-kneed as to be ineffectual.
One more example, and all taken from events over the last two weeks, is the much-heralded School Funding Reform Act (unless you’re an Abbott district: then it’s the much-despised S.F.R.A.). The Herald News comments today that
Anytime a complex piece of legislation is rushed through a lame-duck session — whether Congress or a state Legislature — it is bound to carry hidden flaws. As we discovered this week, such is the case with the much-touted School Funding Reform Act of 2008. That’s the law upheld last week by the state’s Supreme Court, found to be constitutionally “adequate” to displace the long-standing Abbott school funding plan that had concentrated extra state monies on impoverished districts.
The “hidden flaw” identified by the Herald is the lack of funding for preschools. Actually it was not hidden, but out in broad daylight. Corzine has been stiffing districts on money for the last two months by either delaying a school aid payment (the last time school aid was deferred was 2003 and districts are still waiting) or not making pension contributions…or not coming through with promised money for preschools for poor kids who don’t live in Abbott districts.
Do Lucille and Jon share a trait for self-destructiveness? Do they need therapy to adjust their pattern of undermining their good hard work? Are they suffering from narcissistic personality disorder and think they’re so much smarter than us unwashed masses that inconsistencies will be overlooked? Do they have low self-esteem and set low expectations for themselves and the D.O.E.?
Whatever the diagnosis, the result is a loss of time, money, effort, and political capitol. We need to get this right the first time.