N.Y. and New Jersey’s School ReformApril 10, 2009
Wimping Out on ConsolidationApril 13, 2009
New Recessionary Budget Trend:
Districts in N.J. are starting to cut high school freshmen sports, says the Gloucester County Times.
Charter Schools in Camden:
The feature story in today’s Courier-Post compares charter schools and public schools in Camden. With seven charter schools and an enrollment that’s quadrupled over the last decade to 2,763, public schools are feeling the money hit and charters are feeling momentum. Camden City School Board President Sara Davis says “the charter schools are not performing better than the city’s programs and are stealing money from the district.” However, reports the Courier-Post,
Students at LEAP and DUE Season [two charter schools in Camden] are two of the lower test performers when compared to their local charter counterparts. Still, they outperform most Camden City schools in several test areas, according to a random selection of the most recent results from the NJ ASK and HSPA testing for grades 3, 5, 8 and 11.
Al-Shanker-Would-Roll-Over-in -his-Grave Department:
The New York Times editorial staff praises Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s reform efforts but warns that the current stimulus package has no enforcement teeth because it’s too easy on crummy teachers:
If properly spelled out and enforced, this provision would allow parents to see that most teacher evaluation systems are fraudulent and that an overwhelming majority of teachers are rated as “excellent” even in schools where the children learn nothing and fall far below state and national standards.
But the Times staff denounces the loopholes available so that school districts can talk the talk but not walk the walk.
Dysfunctional School Board Department:
The Atlantic City Press reports that the Pleasantville Board of Ed voted against changing to a state-run health care plan for employees even though the shift would result in a 40% reduction in health costs. Why? Board members said that the Administration had not explained things thoroughly and they got details too late.
The Asbury Park School Board, overseers of an Abbot district where the per pupil cost is $22,277, or 74 percent above the state average, rejected a school budget that cuts 62 staff positions. Their decision was then overturned by the state fiscal monitor, Mark Cowell. Reports the Asbury Park Press,
“We’re trying to change how we’re doing things in Asbury,” Cowell said “What we have is not working.”
In Mercer County, members of the Hamilton School Board are charging other Board members with nepotism. For example, reports the Trenton Times, Superintendent Neil Bencivengo’s wife, sister, and daughter all work for the school system and attempts to publicly discuss the issue have been shut down by the Board President.
Department of Dysfunctional D.O.E.:
The Burlington County Times reports that the School Board of Pemberton Township, one of those tiny non-operating districts, is being forced by their Executive County Superintendent to raise taxes because of a “little known state statute called the minimum school tax levy requirement.” The district petitioned for a waiver in order to lower taxes, but Lester Richens, county executive superintendent of schools, refused to approve it. The Board approved the lower budget anyway. So Richens called an emergency meeting of the Board so that they could vote again for the state approved, more expensive budget. They dutifully met and voted 4-0 to refuse to change their budget. Commissioner Lucille Davy has now sent a letter ordering them to follow orders.
Is it a deft ploy by the D.O.E. to convince non-ops that they’re better off dissolved? Are we giving Davy too much credit?