Senate Education Committee Approves Gopal Bill to Reexamine School Funding FormulaFebruary 4, 2022
BREAKING: Today Murphy Will Announce End of the School Mask MandateFebruary 7, 2022
It’s not often that an entire Editorial Board of New Jersey’s paper of record (if the Garden State has such a thing) attacks a Governor and his department leaders with such fervor.
Yet that’s what happened this week at the Star-Ledger. Here are some highlights:
What is Gov. Phil Murphy’s Department of Education doing about the pandemic learning loss in this state, exactly? Very little, considering the crisis we face. Just look at our fourth graders: 50 percent need ‘strong support’ in math, according to the state tests given in the Fall.
The Editorial Board next considers Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz’s dismay at the Department of Education’s utter failure to oversee school districts’ spending of the federal stimulus money for the Covid-19 emergency–almost $3 billion dollars for NJ’s K-12 schools.
“What we are looking at is a potential pipeline to a lifetime of lost wages, lower quality of life, or a direct doorway into the criminal justice system,” Ruiz said at a meeting of educational experts to figure out a path forward, a meeting where not a single DOE staffer—including Murphy’s Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan—made an appearance.
From the editorial:
The state Department of Education seems to be largely abdicating its role, not showing up to a public hearing on the issue, and not providing any explanation for that…New Jersey is behind other states on this, and has done virtually nothing to track the $2.8 billion in federal dollars going directly to schools that can be used for learning loss. Is that money being wasted? Are some districts finding effective uses for it that offer lessons for others? Is the money spent on the kids most in need?
Here’s Patricia Morgan, former NJ Assistant Commissioner of Education and current Executive Director of JerseyCAN, which the editors call the state’s education policy “watchdog.” Her full quote appears in an interview last week: titled, “On Covid Learning Loss, the State Has Been Largely Absent”:
Do we want 50 percent of our students to be back on grade level in two years? “In three years?” My question is, now that we know a majority of students are behind, how are we working together across all 600 school districts to make sure we are making meaningful progress? What is the state’s plan? And what’s the objective measure of progress? Do we want 50 percent of our students to be back on grade level in two years? In three years?
(Morgan thinks the State DOE should administer this past autumn’s standardized tests called StartStrong so we can compare student growth from 2021-2022. The DOE is declining to do this, instead instituting new tests that lack any base line of comparison.)
The Editorial Board continues,”we seem to be throwing the money out and hoping for the best. And If there’s anything we have learned over the last century in New Jersey, that’s not a smart approach” as we lose the urgency needed to address the alarming fact that over 70% of Black and Hispanic fourth-graders in New Jersey rate in the lowest level of proficiency. Here’s the conclusion:
Now the higher performing districts are moving along, and better-off parents are hiring tutors to ensure their children do not fail. That sense of political urgency seems to be dissipating. Ruiz says she’d like to take out billboards across the state to alert people about these alarming fourth grade failure rates, because ‘I’m not sure every single mother understands what is happening, not because of will or want, just because of circumstances.’ But the state is obligated to hear her warning, because a fair and equitable education is a constitutional right in New Jersey. If we want well-rounded citizens and taxpayers, we need to make good investments early on, in the classroom – or we’ll be paying dearly on the back end.