Swine WhineMay 7, 2009
Charter School FeverMay 11, 2009
Fallout from school Budget Failures:
While about 70% of school budgets passed in New Jersey on April 21st, the ones that failed to gain voter approval now go to local Town Councils. That doesn’t mean the budgets necessarily get reduced – the D.O.E. bars reduction, regardless of local voters, if the district is spending below “adequacy” level — and the districts above the level can always appeal the cuts.
In Edison, reports the Star-Ledger, voters said “no” to the $203 million budget even though raises were held down and the district got stiffed on a lot of State aid. In Plainfield, an Abbott district, voters rejected the 8% tax increase, but, explains mycentraljersey, special needs districts are now being required to pick up more of their school tab and the vote was moot. In Hamilton, says the Trentonian,
The budget was voted down by a slim margin of voters in last month’s school election, but state law regarding school funding levels allow school boards to disregard the vote and pass them anyway.
In Roxbury, the failed $70.2 million led to the Town Council’s suggestion of a $1.1 million cut, but Superintendent Michael Rossi said the recommendation was “a total surprise and shock to me,” reports the Record. An appeal seems likely. In Parsippany, also says the Record, the Board President is so fearful of school board members speaking to Town Council about the failed budget that he’s announced the appointment of a 3-member ad-hoc committee (which includes himself) and imposed a gag rule on the other 6 members of the school board. (That’s illegal, by the way.)
Why do we bother? April budget votes are a waste of money and time. The D.O.E. is imposing strict limits on spending. Failed budgets end up in Town Councils that are unschooled in education finance, and districts almost always appeal cuts. The whole exercise contributes to voter cynicism and anger.
Get rid of budget votes. Move school board elections to November.
Let’s Lighten up on the Obama Kids:
Megan McArdle of the Atlantic Monthly, usually insightful and sane, lashes out at the Obamas’ decision to put their kids in private school. Her real anger is directed toward the Obama Administration’s weak-kneed response to the pending elimination of the D.C. voucher program, perhaps a better target than parents who don’t use their kids as political symbols.
If you know me on this issue, you know that I am very, very upset. And that I think that there is probably a special place in hell reserved for politicians who betray our nation’s most helpless children for the benefit of a sullen and recalcitrant teacher’s union. There they spend all eternity explaining to their victims why they couldn’t possibly have risked their precious babies’ future in the public school system, yet felt perfectly free to fling other peoples’ children into it by the thousands.
The Record: Kill the School Ethics Commission:
The Daily Record takes aim at the School Ethics Commission, which is supposed to regulate the behavior of school board members. It’s a worthless layer of governmental interference, the piece says, taking a year and a half to issue a 7-page report regarding the rights of a Washington Township school board committee that sent out a press release.
Can’t Hack it on Wall Street? Teach!:
The New York Times reports today on the rush of laid-off finance workers in New Jersey to programs that offer short-cuts to math and science teaching certifications. Too bad these people are unemployed, but it’s not a bad thing for the NJEA to get a little rattled by potential teachers molded by private industry’s work ethic.
Mulshine on Lonegan’s Willingness to Wade into the Abbott Mess:
Paul Mulshine has an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal on the NJ GOP division: should they pick a moderate after the mold of Christine Whitman or go for the red meat? Steve Lonegan, in Mulshine’s view, meets the criteria of someone bold/brash/clueless enough to go after serious financial reform, including school funding:
One surprising divide within Republican ranks is over policies aimed at serving suburban voters. Stretching back to the mid-1980s, a series of lawsuits have compelled the state to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a handful of largely urban school districts, called “Abbott Districts” after the original court case. Abbott Districts are a hot issue because suburbanites in many of the 585 other districts pay income taxes to fund schools in these 31 districts while also paying steep property taxes for their own schools.
The situation has been politically untouchable because Abbott Districts tend to have large ethnic minority populations. Proposals to cut suburban income taxes invariably run into racial politics. I can’t count the number of times a mainstream Republican has cornered me in the Statehouse to say that anyone who proposes suburban tax relief will be branded a racist.
For a sympathetic look at Lonegan’s rocky rise in politics, see today’s Star-Ledger.