Hannukah Gelt or Coal in Your Stocking? Checking in on Lakewood.

Stacey Barchenger of the Asbury Park Press is indefatigable in her investigations into the shenanigans in Lakewood Public Schools. Example: last week she reported that the district, which operates as a funding stream for 130+ private religious ultra-Orthodox Jewish day schools, used $1.6 million in federal money intended for secular material to buy religious textbooks. This is a violation of New Jersey state law and federal law. Welcome to Lakewood. From the APP story: The …

Confessions of a Jersey-Born White Teacher in an Urban School

(This is a guest post by Jennifer Rich, an assistant professor in the College of Education at Rowan University, and the director of research and education for the Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. It first appeared in the Hechinger Report.) My first year of teaching, I did almost everything wrong. They tell you to be yourself. Here was my first mistake: I didn’t want to be myself. I wanted to be Michelle Pfeiffer. …

Rumor Mill in Lakewood Heating Up in Advance of Tonight’s Board Meeting

The rumor mill in Lakewood is abuzz as the Board of Education gets ready for tonight’s meeting. If anyone can suggest some factual information, please use the comment section. Inquiring minds want to know. Rumor #1: Is Board Attorney Michael Inzelbuch really resigning? Someone seems to think so. Rumor #2: How displeased is the Lakewood community with the state’s “loan” of $28 million and the Board’s agreement to start paying it back in a year, …

“This Is Not the ‘Fairer’ New Jersey Promised by Gov. Murphy”

This is a letter from Robert Beers, Superintendent of  Manville Public Schools (Somerset County) that first appeared in Central Jersey.  Another budget planning cycle has come and gone for New Jersey school districts as the May 15 submission deadline has passed. This task continues to be a herculean effort as Manville Borough remains one of the most underfunded school districts in the entire state of New Jersey. The Manville 2018-19 budget was completed in the …

Six Ways in Which Lakewood is “Special”; Or, What Happens When Local Control Runs Wild

I’ve been thinking about local control lately and the ways in which it contributes, both locally and nationally, to public education inequities. New Jersey, of course, is local control run wild —  late Assemblyman Alan Karcher called us an exemplar of  “multiple municipal madness” —  with our 590 school districts and 565 municipalities. Every attempt to even out disparities in funding and affordable housing fails miserably because no amount of money — think of Asbury …

Princeton Palace: This is What’s Wrong with Local Control

When my husband Dennis and I were getting ready to move from upstate New York to a new home within a reasonable commuting distance to his office in Manhattan, we zeroed in on Mercer County in Central Jersey. After all, you can get to Penn Station in an hour on an express NJ Transit train, we’d be reasonably close to my family, and housing prices were more affordable than, say, Westchester or Connecticut. Of course, …

A Fiscal Realist Responds to David Sciarra’s Innumeracy

David G. Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, wrote an editorial last week in NJ Spotlight slamming former Governor Chris Christie for not spending enough on schools, creating a “false narrative of public school failure,” and a variety of other sins. But redemption is near, Sciarra rejoices, because new Governor Phil Murphy magically will fully fund the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), expand free Pre-Kindergarten, and restore funding for facilities costs in Abbott districts. …

“If You’re Not a White Boy, You’re Less Likely to Be Diagnosed with Autism”

The National Autism Coordinator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently submitted  a report to Congress called  “Young Adults and Transitioning Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” You can wade through the whole thing here but the conclusions will come as no surprise to parents with children and young adults on the autism spectrum: our country’s system for providing support is inadequate, inequitable, fragmented, confusing, and in “acute need” of reform. Any parent …

Follow the Money All the Way to Lakewood; Or, Kneel to the Vaad

This just in from Matt Rooney of Save Jersey, who speculates how Governor-to-be Phil Murphy so easily secured the Democratic nomination. Says Rooney, “he bought it, Corzine-style,” but with one difference. [W]hereas Corzine did it the old fashioned way (donating HUGE sums of cash to Democrat county organizations who decide the nomination), Murphy spread the cash around through various front organizations over the course of years. Rooney is dinging Murphy here. I’m not; it’s de …

Two Other Lakewood-Related Items

Number one: the Star-Ledger reports that Tobree Mostel, the supervisor of the district’s office of Chapter 192 and 193 funding  (the line items for tax dollars that contribute to tuition for special education students to attend ultra-Orthodox yeshivas) was fired for confronting the Lakewood School Board about improprieties. From the Ledger: Mostel claims in the notice that she was targeted after she objected to “certain questionable and unethical practices” by a third-party vendor handling the evaluations …