Mandatory Volunteerism

We hear more and more about consolidation of school districts. Earlier in Governor Corzine’s term he spoke regularly about voluntary mergers of districts, but now the State Legislature is playing hardball. Forget voluntary. The passage of the legislation 18A last year created the sceptered post of Executive County Superintendent and, to the horror of proponents of home rule, this new throne has the power to order consolidation. Here’s the language from the bill itself, 18A: …

Is There a State Irony Committee?

The Asbury Park Press reports on some bickering spawned by the public outcry over the Keansburg superintendent who ended up with a huge retirement package. At a State Senate Education Committee meeting this past Thursday, Ramsey Board of Education member Richard Snyder tangoed with Senator Shirley Turner, the Chair of the Committee. Snyder testified against new legislation that would reduce local control over superintendent contracts and argued that market forces should drive compensation packages: “My …

Home Rule Exodus

The Star-Ledger reports today on the increasing pressure on New Jersey’s 566 municipalities to consolidate services such as animal control, health services, police departments, and trash collection. Recent history offers countless stories of failed attempts at shared services, but “Gov. Jon Corzine has upped the ante by threatening to cut state aid to small towns with heavy overhead if they don’t merge services.” Notes the Ledger, Yet overcoming the tradition of home rule isn’t easy. …

School Construction Chief Rumor

The Jersey blog PolitickerNJ is reporting that Scott Weiner, who “retired” last month from the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (that’s the re-do of the infamous School Construction Corporation) was actually fired by Corzine: while Weiner said that he was leaving because he thought it was time for the embattled school construction agency to hire a CEO who would commit to long term service, he was effectively fired. Gov. Jon Corzine, according to sources familiar …

Cognitive Dissonance

There’s lots of talk in local papers today about the swelling dropout rate in New Jersey’s public high schools. This topic of the day was prompted by Corzine’s announcement Tuesday of a year-long “New Jersey High School Graduation Campaign.” More than 80% of high school freshmen graduate on time, but in urban districts the numbers are much lower – for example, Newark has only a 63% graduation rate. According to the Asbury Park Press, The …

NJSBA Power Play

In yet another sign of New Jersey’s struggle over home rule, the Asbury Park Press editorialized yesterday that, in wake of the diploma mill scandal in Freehold (James Wasser, the superintendent, received tuition reimbursement and a raise by buying a degree from a bogus school), the DOE should develop a standard contract for school administrators — one that prevents school boards and superintendents from loading them up with outrageous perks and benefits and gives boards …

Zero-Sum Game

There’s daily chatter about the tussle in New Jersey between local school districts and the State Department of Education. Our beloved system of home rule has historically granted a fair amount of freedom to each school district to set curricula and infuse local values into the public school system. However, our newly dogmatic DOE is on a spree of standardizing everything from car leases to academic standards among our 615 school districts. The post below …

You Put Your Right Foot In, You Put Your Right Foot Out…

This is getting fun. Can you guess how NJ officials will react to the news that the former superintendent of Paterson violated state and local law by paying a friend $73,000 as a consultant’s fee? Here’s our guess: 1) Legislators will froth at the mouth and emit lengthy legislation prohibiting superintendents from writing checks to their best buddies.2) The DOE will stomp and scowl about irresponsible administrators and then disgorge a mountain of regulations for …

Break out the Incense

Here’s a must-read piece in today’s Education Week on the current court battle about New Jersey’s school funding formula. Since 1981 when Abbott v Burke was first filed, we’ve struggled with how to equitably divvy up school funds. When local municipalities are responsible for most school costs through property taxes, poorer towns get short shrift. The Abbott decisions created a two-tier system: 31 districts were declared “Abbott districts” because high poverty rates rendered adequate funding …

Whack-A-Mole the Jersey Way

The reputation of local school boards and administrators in New Jersey is dappled with some fresh mud today. For starters, the National School Boards Association rescinded an invitation to James Wasser, the superintendent of Freehold Regional Schools who purchased his graduate degree from a diploma mill. He had been scheduled to speak at its convention in San Diego, but the NSBA’s verdict is that Wasser “would hamper the credibility of the presenters involved.” Wasser’s stance …