Quote of the DayMarch 17, 2009
Englewood HeroicsMarch 18, 2009
Bruce Greenfield, Ocean County Executive Superintendent, seems way ahead of the curve on his marching orders to offer consolidation proposals to the DOE. According to the Asbury Park Press, he’s come up with a creative way to meet both the mandate for consolidation and the mandate for preschools: consolidate Seaside Park, Seaside Heights and Island Heights school districts into Toms River Regional, and then use the empty elementary schools for preschool and kindergarten kids.
Sounds like a winner, especially for Seaside Heights, which has been battling in court for years to win the right to withdraw from a neighboring district where they send their post-elementary school kids, Central Regional. But there’s a couple of roadblocks in the way. First, Central Regional has no interest in losing tuition income from Seaside Heights and any consolidation would have to be “tax-neutral,” i.e., not raise school taxes for Central Regional’s participating districts. More importantly, no one has any idea why the story is with preschool aid.
Back on January 16th, Commissioner Lucille Davy wrote a letter to all school superintendents and said, in part,
I can tell you that while the Governor remains firmly committed to the expansion of high quality preschool programs for children at risk because of poverty, we are awaiting decisions from the new administration and Congress regarding the federal economic stimulus package. Given the state’s fiscal crisis, it will be difficult to fund preschool expansion for September 2009 without federal funding. The preschool expansion plans that were submitted by districts throughout the state demonstrated your enthusiasm and readiness to provide these programs. I also understand that for planning purposes and in order to notify parents, you need a decision on this as soon as possible and we expect to have more definitive information by mid-to-late February. Under any circumstances, however we will not ask local taxpayers to fund these programs.
Help us out here. Are preschool programs for at-risk kids fully funded, as they are in Abbott districts? Are they half-way funded, as individual district aid numbers indicate? Are they funded only for a portion of the eligible kids, as other information suggests? It’s nice that Ms. Davy understands that districts need a decision “as soon as possible,” but it would be nicer if that understanding translated into information from the DOE.
The irony here is that the Corzine and the DOE have made it their raison d’etre to overcome New Jersey’s extravagant culture of local school governance. However, it’s the DOE’s current lack of fiscal transparency that is getting in the way of a resourceful solution.