Tom Moran in this morning’s Star-Ledger sets the mood in Jersey City:
This was lottery night at Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City. The K-8 school had 30 openings to fill. The problem: Roughly 1,000 families applied to fill them. Hundreds of them streamed into the auditorium to watch the process live, even though results soon would be posted online.
Legislation passed this year that requires NJ’s school board members to get finger-printed has hit some, er, implementation issues. After 186 board members were declared ineligible to serve this week, “The Star-Ledger found that more than a dozen people no longer served on their respective boards, having resigned for various reasons over the past eight months. And in at least one case, a man identified as a school board member for a Newark charter school had never been a board member there, a spokeswoman for the school said.” Here’s a press release from Assembly Democrats asking Comm. Cerf to extend the Dec. 31st deadline. He did: it’s Jan. 27th.
The School Development Authority, the state agency charged with funding emergency repairs in NJ’s poorest school districts, is neglecting its mandate, according to Education Law Center. In Trenton, for example, the building and grounds director for Trenton Public Schools told the Star-Ledger, “This is a shell game. What happens is that an ‘emergent project’ becomes an emergency project, and when it becomes an emergency project the onus is on the district to find the money to fix it. I’m fighting tooth and nail to try and abate the violations before we get fined.” Here’s ELC’s press release.
Speaking of Trenton, the school board there is debating whether to pay a search firm $20K to find a new superintendent. Its interim, Ray Broach, retires in June. The Trenton Times looks back on Trenton’s last search: “ Rodney Lofton, the man who got the job, stepped aside in Oct. 2010 in the face of mounting criticism after a state audit uncovered waste and fiscal mismanagement in the district’s special education department. Lofton, who earned $180,000 and had 18 months left on his contract when he stepped down, was paid $88,000 as part of a separation agreement that December.”
NJ Spotlight reports on a challenge by Allamuchy Public Schools to the state’s new Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying legislation. Allamuchy is asking the state’s Council on Local Mandates to declare that the new law is an “unfunded and therefore unconstitutional mandate.” Also check out Spotlight’s profile of Peter Shulman, the DOE’s new Chief Talent Officer, who is “leading the teacher quality component of Gov. Chris Christie’s and acting commissioner Chris Cerf’s education reform policy.”
Check out Maria Pella’s blog on the state of the Plainfield Public Schools; she’s been on a roll lately. For example, she requested, through OPRA, the minutes of a Plainfield Board of Education Executive Session and received it with no redactions. Surprised? You should be: executive sessions are confined to items that are privileged, like personnel, negotiations, litigation. Instead, the board deliberated privately on public matters like improving instruction, electives at the high school, textbook availability, and the interim superintendent’s explanation that “if we don’t continue with assertiveness on improving, we may be in jeopardy of a take-over of our district by the State, which is happening all over New Jersey.”
The Wall Street Journal details Gov. Christie’s plans to challenge the School Funding Reform Act, which includes nominating two state Supreme Court justices. Also in his education plans:
• Pass a package of education bills that address teacher tenure, merit pay and scholarships
• Cut income taxes this year or next, if the fiscal situation allows
• Provide more support for higher education.
As goes the U.S., so goes Britain?: A piece in the Telegraph notes that “at present, head teachers in maintained schools find it almost impossible to get rid of under-performing teachers, so great is the power of the teaching unions…only 18 teachers in the UK has been struck off for incompetence by the General Teaching Council in the past 40 years.”
Christie has already challenged SFRA and won, much to the chagrin of suburban school districts. Who will defend the formula? Seemingly neither the courts nor the legislature.
Absent any formula, state aid will follow the whim of the governor–a frightening prospect.
NJ is already near the bottom in state funding of education. Let's be clear about the Governor's agenda: he wants more for (a lot) less in public education.
Does anyone believe that's the way his or our world works?
Thanks for mention. It sure feels as if lately all information is finally coming together. It is thanks to blogs like yours, and many others, that concerned parents and residents of failing districts can get educated about goes on “out there” as sometimes our local issues seem to take the best of our time and energies. Thanks for what you do, really. I am a fan of yours.
Thanks, Maria. The feeling's mutual!
Hi, Kallikak. Where do you get the idea that NJ is “near the bottom in state funding”? Do you mean that in high-income towns that the bulk of school funding comes from local taxes?
No, I mean as a fraction (34% across the state, I think) of local education costs. Embarrassingly, even a number of southern states—whose schools are far below ours in terms of performance—fund at about 50% statewide.
Thus the ongoing property tax “crisis” is largely self-inflicted by Trenton. Job #1 in NJ should be the restructuring of public education finance.
Don't hold lunch waiting, though.