There was a story in the Star-Ledger this weekend about the Glen Ridge district considering converting to charter schools or private schools.
According to the story:
Faced with burdensome mandates and diminishing returns from Trenton, one of the state’s top public school districts is considering a path that could make it the first to effectively secede from New Jersey’s public education system.
The Glen Ridge school board will enter largely uncharted waters when it gathers at a retreat this month to discuss converting some or all of the four schools in the 1,932-student district to charter or private schools.
In a community where the average property tax bill tops $16,000, the idea of becoming a breakaway district emerged as word spread that Glen Ridge’s already small portion of state aid would vanish and that New Jersey might embrace a new cap limit to tax increases in order to encourage school districts to merge.
Click here for the full Star-Ledger story.
Sounds sort of lovely, doesn't it? Just leave Trenton behind, do things ourselves, nobody telling us what to do, nobody taking away our funds at the last minute. I bet the sun shines a little brighter and the birds sing a little sweeter, too...
Sorry, don't mean to be cynical, but I'm not super-optimistic about this. First of all, the idea that we could secede because we get "nothing" from the state isn't accurate. Sure, our regular aid was cut 100% for 2010-11. But the state does provide other aid to Ridgewood, in the form of "extraordinary aid" to help with special education costs. I don't have the exact amount at hand, but I'm fairly certain we would miss it if it were gone. Second, the state makes the employer contribution to teachers' pensions. OK, OK, the state is supposed to make the employer contribution..the fact that they have not been doing so recently is a minor detail right? You can bet that if we became responsible for making those contributions, Trenton would be all over us with fines and whatnot if we didn't pay-up on time.
Another thing to consider: I'm not sure, but I think it's true that if a school or district were to do convert to private, they would be required to turn over all property to the state.
So the question Glen Ridge's BOE will be considering is if the savings achieved by removing Trenton's rules and regs are enough to make up for the loss of extraordinary aid and the obligation to make pension contributions.
I certainly understand the appeal of "secession." I'll be watching what develops in Glen Ridge.
Small world note: Glen Ridge's current superintendent is John Mucciolo, former RHS principal. And our superintedent, Dan Fishbein, was superintendent in Glen Ridge before he came to Ridgewood.
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