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Today two news outlets, NJ Spotlight and the Star-Ledger ran pieces—one a news report and one an op-ed—slamming Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan and her staff for inordinate delays on a Lakewood funding decision and the Department of Education’s toothless regulations on ensuring educational equity standards for New Jersey students.
Coincidentally, today is also the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education, where members will be asked to approve lower passing scores, or “cut scores,” for the high school graduation test called the NJGPA after only 39.4% of NJ 11th graders reached proficiency in reading (or ELA) and 49.4% reached proficiency in math. The Board will also consider changes to special education regulations that would “provide flexibility for school districts to provide related services virtually when a student is unable to attend school in-person.” It would also also allow occupational and physical therapy “assistants” to administer services to students instead of fully-licensed therapists.
(Aside: the remedy for the NJGPA problem is for the State Legislature to pass a bill overturning this graduation requirement and, instead, tell the DOE to have a vendor create state standardized tests that students would take at the end of the course in tenth-grade reading and algebra. Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz has already proposed such a bill but the Assembly leadership won’t put it before members for consideration.)
Today’s Star-Ledger includes an article by Steve Strunsky about lawyers representing Lakewood Public Schools who have asked Allen-McMillan “to impose a deadline on herself” to respond to a recent court ruling that says the state school funding formula is unsuitable for this district because they are required to provide transportation and services for 35,000 students who attend ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools. In July 2021 the Commissioner ruled that the funding formula was fair to Lakewood because it was meeting the requirements for its in-district population. But on March 6th a appellate court overturned her decision because it said Allen-Mcmillan “focused too narrowly on the physical condition of district facilities” instead of the educational needs of the district’s 6,500 low-income Hispanic students.
Allen-McMillan has not yet responded and the court didn’t give her a deadline. So the Lakewood lawyers involved in the case, Arthur Lang and Paul Tractenberg, have filed an “emergency motion for relief” that would require her to respond by May 15th, less than two weeks from now:
‘The initial onus is on you to issue a prompt final decision relating to your remand instructions from the Appellate Division,’ wrote Lang, a Lakewood Public Schools math teacher and sometime lawyer who filed the initial Alcantara petition. ‘The irreparable harm inflicted on Lakewood’s public school students will not be erased no matter how fast you act, but, at least, it will be limited.’
Allen-McMillan has not responded to requests for comment.
She also took a bit of a bruising in an op-ed by Peter Rosario, president and chief executive officer of Newark’s La Casa de Don Pedro, who, while approving of changes to DOE regulations of “Managing for Equality and Equity in Education,” says these are meaningless tweaks that will nothing to rectify statewide inequities because no one will “read them or care.” In other words, there’s no accountability from Gov. Murphy’s DOE, just word salad.