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10-15-13 Private Providers Spending Big Issue...Disparities - Rutgers and UCLA Studies
Star Ledger - Lawmakers: Spending by N.J. private schools for disabled students 'disturbing', reform coming...The reactions came a day after the newspaper’s report, which found the state’s private special-needs schools operate in a twighlight zone of the state education system, under a special set of rules that allows them to spend taxpayer money in ways public schools cannot.

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Reports Detail Racial Segregation in New Jersey Public Schools…Rutgers-Newark and UCLA studies cite stark disparities and even ‘apartheid’ in education system

Star Ledger - Lawmakers: Spending by N.J. private schools for disabled students 'disturbing', reform coming

Christopher Baxter/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 14, 2013 at 1:05 PM, updated October 15, 2013 at 6:42 AM

TRENTON — The spending of taxpayer money at New Jersey’s about 180 private schools for disabled students is “disturbing” and the Legislature should make improving oversight and eliminating waste a top priority in the coming months, two leading lawmakers said today.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), the chair of the lower house’s Education Committee, said he was “very surprised” by a Sunday Star-Ledger report revealing nepotism, high salaries, generous pensions, fancy cars and questionable business deals at these schools.

“Regardless of how positive one’s motives are, and I believe these particular institutions are clearly an asset to the most vulnerable population, that doesn’t mean they should not have the same accountability and transparency as public schools,” Diegnan said.

He said he will push for new laws or regulations to address the problems when the Legislature returns to work after the November election.

“It should be a priority,” he said. “I’m sure anyone who read that article would have the same reaction that it was disturbing.”

Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), the vice chair of the Education Committee in the upper house, said “her blood pressure continued to rise” as she read about the spending, and agreed with Diegnan that lawmakers must move swiftly to put in place new rules to curtail the waste.

“It’s totally inappropriate to help pay for a Lexus and BMW and these luxury cars for people to drive, and give them these enormous salaries,” Turner said. “I’m going to call the Office of Legislature Services (today) to look into how we can best address this so it no longer occurs.”

The reactions came a day after the newspaper’s report, which found the state’s private special-needs schools operate in a twighlight zone of the state education system, under a special set of rules that allows them to spend taxpayer money in ways public schools cannot.

But unlike public schools, there are no elected officials to hold accountable, no school board meetings to attend or budgets to examine. As a result, the review found, questionable spending has continued for more than a decade — all hidden in plain sight.

Gerard Thiers, the executive director of ASAH, an association representing the schools, did not return a request for comment on the lawmakers’ reactions, but he told The Star-Ledger in a previous interview that he would be open to discussing new rules within reason.

He also reiterated, however, that the schools believe they are already over-regulated and should be left alone by the state.

Gov. Chris Christie’s office did not return requests for comment.

During the newspaper’s investigation, the state Department of Education, which is responsible for overseeing the schools, confirmed it was considering a proposal largely put forward by the schools that would eliminate many existing spending rules but would also cap tuition.

The department said it believes the change would save taxpayer money, but critics worry such a system would not stem the questionable spending.

“If they want to play by private-sector rules then that’s fine, but if they want to receive taxpayer money, public money, then they have to play by the same rules the public sector plays by,” Turner said.

NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Reports Detail Racial Segregation in New Jersey Public Schools…Rutgers-Newark and UCLA studies cite stark disparities and even ‘apartheid’ in education system

John Mooney | October 15, 2013

 

Click to expand.

Provocative titles: “New Jersey’s Dysfunctional State Education System: Apartheid and Intensely Segregated Schools as an Important Cause” and “A Status Quo of Segregation: Racial and Economic Imbalance in New Jersey Schools, 1989-2010”

The authors: The reports were released jointly on Friday by the Institute of Law and Policy at Rutgers-Newark and the Civil Rights Project at University of California, Los Angeles. The first report was written by Paul Tractenberg of Rutgers and Gary Orfield and Greg Flaxman of UCLA. Flaxman was lead author of the second report.

What they are: The studies update and detail the long-running picture of race in New Jersey schools, which continues to have some of the most segregated schools in the nation. The Civil Rights Project report tracks data since 1989 to show little change, even as the general population has grown more diverse. The Rutgers report details how the most segregated schools are in the urban centers, sometimes within a stone’s throw of suburban schools where there are few black or Hispanic students. Both reports make specific recommendations, including a new focus on desegregation models that succeed.

What it means: The reports seek to bring renewed public attention to New Jersey’s long history of segregated education, a history driven in part by its homogeneous housing patterns but possibly caused other factors as well. UCLA’s Civil Rights Project has been a leader on the issue, releasing such data about New Jersey and other states every few years. All generally show little progress has been made as we pass the half-century mark of the Brown v. Board of Education rulings and the peak of the civil-rights movement.

Stark numbers: The new reports present the New Jersey data in a number of ways, but it can be summed up in the finding that in the 2010-11 school year, almost half of black and Hispanic students were in schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students were white, and many were in schools where there was virtually no white students.

What’s different this time: The data hasn’t much changed over previous years, even as the U.S. Supreme Court has knocked down desegregation laws. However, New Jersey’s own laws and policies could be in peril, as well. The state Department of Education has scaled back its regulations related to monitoring desegregation efforts in schools and Gov. Chris Christie has been openly critical of Mount Laurel affordable-housing rules.

Housing matters, but …: The Civil Rights Project documents that while housing and population trends clearly play a part in the segregation of schools, New Jersey schools have remained segregated even as the general population has grown more diverse.

Like South Africa? The reports go for the dramatic, describing New Jersey’s most severely segregated schools – a total of 191 -- as “apartheid schools,” defined as having less than 1 percent of students who are white and where at least 79 percent of students are low-income.

The recommendations: The reports make a number of recommendation that have been put forward before, with varying success, while proposing some new measures as well. For example, they recommend new attention to magnet and other regionalized schools that would draw students across local borders. Connecticut is held up as a model, with its recently created magnet schools.

Charters and choice: The report’s newer recommendations relate to New Jersey’s existing charter school and inter-district choice programs, imploring the state to institute requirements on schools to weigh racial and income diversity in enrolling students.

Regionalization for desegregation: The reports also suggest the old idea of regionalizing schools by county or other large districts, with the intent of helping diversify schools as well as provide cost efficiencies.

The prospects: The political prospects for any of these changes are daunting. Regionalization has been a difficult concept in this state, even without race overtly on the table. New requirements for charter schools aren’t out of the question, but even those would be hard-fought, too. And while magnet schools have proven successful in some communities in providing some diversity, they have also proven to be expensive.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
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