NJEA Fairy TaleFebruary 2, 2009
High School Redesign UnderminedFebruary 3, 2009
As districts face the music generated by the DOE’s mandate on school consolidation, a predictable pattern is emerging: first, murmur agreeably about potential efficiencies and, two, cross your fingers and bow to home rule. For example, My Central Jersey reports that Somerset Hills and Bedminster are tiptoeing around the edges of consolidating some services. Bedminster, a K-8 district, already sends its high schoolers to Somerset Hills. The local paper editorializes,
The wretched economy and New Jersey’s unrelenting tax problems have pushed the state to a kind of tipping point regarding school and municipal consolidations. It has long been acknowledged that a principal driver of the state’s high property taxes is the existence of more than 560 municipalities and more than 600 individual school districts, which creates costly and widespread administrative redundancy, among other examples of wasteful spending.
But how do officials convince some of those towns and some of those districts to start voluntarily merging and — in theory, at least — save money?
The answer, it appears, is that they can’t. “Home rule” sentiment, worries about a loss of services and quality, skepticism about the true potential savings — all play a role in public resistance to mergers. So too does a simple fear of change
Over in Franklin Township, The Gloucester County Times reports that the local Board of Education has decided to fund a feasibility study (cost: $35,000 – $47,000) over the next 6 months that will examine the benefits of merging Franklin, Elk, Delsea Regional, and Newfield school districts. But the murmurs are muted; even before the feasibility study is initiated, the parties involved are already expressing reluctance:
When the agreement was announced in December, Executive County Superintendent Mark Stanwood said he was disappointed that Franklin Township Board of Education acted without informing the other districts involved, because consolidation affects more than just Franklin.
Wanna place bets on the odds of either of these consolidations coming through? We need some new dance steps.