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2-20-13 Education Issues in the News
Philadelphia Inquirer - NJ Legislature looking at requiring all schools to offer full-day kindergarten classes'...No cost estimate for the proposed mandate has been calculated.“It really needs to be addressed, because it’s such a large stumbling block,” said Lynne Strickland of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, an advocacy group for suburban districts. “Thinking districts will be able to take this on with the 2 percent tax cap is wishful thinking.”....Delran Superintendent Patricia Camp said the district probably would not have been able to make the change if it didn’t have the available classroom space.“It really does boil down to money, but space is also a big issue,” Camp said.'

NJ Spotlight - More School Districts Move Elections Into November…The chance to remove school budgets from the ballot continues to attract districts statewide … “Among those making the change was Glen Ridge, where the school board last year in April saw its lowest turnout in history.“We decided that nothing terrible has happened to the 80 percent of districts who switched to November last year,” said Elisabeth Ginsburg, the school board’s president. “Our process here is truly nonpartisan and Borough Council members already run that way in November with no partisan interference,” she said in an email. “We didn't really see a downside.”

NJ Spotlight - Two Newest Paterson Charters Are Well Connected -- With Established Networks…The latest charter schools approvals may indicate the state is leaning toward providers with proven track records… “Twenty-five charter schools have opened since Christie was elected, 18 since Cerf took office. A total of 46 have been approved under Christie, the bulk of them in 2010 when the administration approved 36 new schools. Since Cerf came on board, just 14 have been approved. In addition, five charter schools have been closed due to poor performance and mismanagement.”

Philadelphia Inquirer - NJ Legislature looking at requiring all schools to offer full-day kindergarten classes

'...No cost estimate for the proposed mandate has been calculated.“It really needs to be addressed, because it’s such a large stumbling block,” said Lynne Strickland of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, an advocacy group for suburban districts. “Thinking districts will be able to take this on with the 2 percent tax cap is wishful thinking.”....Delran Superintendent Patricia Camp said the district probably would not have been able to make the change if it didn’t have the available classroom space.“It really does boil down to money, but space is also a big issue,” Camp said.'

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 7:16 am, Wed Feb 20, 2013.

NJ Legislature looking at requiring all schools to offer full-day kindergarten classes

By David Levinsky Staff writerPhillyBurbs.com, Posted on February 20, 2013

Kindergarten students in seven Burlington County school districts will have a longer school day if a state lawmaker gets her way.

Assemblywoman Connie Wagner is sponsoring legislation to require all New Jersey public school districts to offer full-day kindergarten rather than just a half-day.

Close to 30 percent of New Jersey districts offer only half-day, including Cinnaminson, Lumberton, Mansfield, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel and Springfield.

Evesham charges families $5,000 in tuition per student to enroll in its full-day program but keeps its traditional half-day program free. Delran has only a half-day program but will expand to full day this fall.

Parents of children attending half-day programs shouldn’t plan for full day just yet, as even Wagner said her measure is unlikely to advance through the Legislature quickly given the financial challenges that a full-day requirement would impose. Nonetheless, she said that making sure every kindergarten student receives the benefits of a full-day education should be a priority and that funding for that purpose should be awarded as soon as the state is able to afford it.

“We can do much better,” Wagner, D-38th of Paramus, said last week during a hearing on her bill before the Assembly Education Committee. “Every child should be able to have a full day of kindergarten, regardless of their ZIP code.”

Committee members and stakeholders discussed the bill for more than an hour during the Feb. 11 meeting but did not vote the measure out of committee.

Wagner called half-day programs “antiquated” given the amount of learning now expected of kindergartners, who are required to know reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.

“We need to recognize that times have changed, and we need to offer a full-time experience,” she said. “In this day and age, the time we require a child to spend in kindergarten should not be the same as what was required during the Depression.”

Supporters from groups such as the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association agreed and pointed to studies showing the academic and developmental benefits of full-day kindergarten. They also noted that many families in districts with only half-day classes are forced to spend large sums to send their children to private schools or after-school programs.

“Early education matters, and I want the first-, second- and third-grade teachers that I represent to have the best-prepared students possible,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of government relations for the NJEA, the state’s largest teachers union.

Representatives from other education groups agreed on the many benefits of requiring full-day programs but said they worried about the costs, particularly given the limits imposed on districts’ spending by the state’s 2 percent cap on tax levy increases.

No cost estimate for the proposed mandate has been calculated.

“It really needs to be addressed, because it’s such a large stumbling block,” said Lynne Strickland of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, an advocacy group for suburban districts. “Thinking districts will be able to take this on with the 2 percent tax cap is wishful thinking.”

Officials from county districts with half-day programs said their districts would expand to full day if financially feasible.

“If the state mandated it and provided funding, we’d be right on the bandwagon,” said Marie Reynolds, spokeswoman for the Mount Laurel School District. “Over the years, it’s been the one thing that parents have identified as the most difficult for them. Many already spend an inordinate amount on day care.”

Reynolds said finding space and money for the additional staff has made expansion impossible. She said a previous survey found that the district would need 22 more classrooms to accommodate a full-day kindergarten.

Burlington Township Superintendent Christopher Manno said his district was able to afford to expand its kindergarten to full day three years ago by using savings from its half-day preschool, which was converted to a mostly tuition-based program.

“If we didn’t have that option, we may not have had the financial wherewithal to make the change,” Manno said Tuesday, adding that the district has seen numerous benefits from the longer day.

Delran residents voted in November to pay more property taxes to bring back full-day kindergarten after the school district was forced to change to half-day classes in 2009-10 because of state aid losses and other financial constraints.

Delran Superintendent Patricia Camp said the district probably would not have been able to make the change if it didn’t have the available classroom space.

“It really does boil down to money, but space is also a big issue,” Camp said.

David Levinsky: 609-871-8154; email: dlevinsky@phillyBurbs.com; Twitter: @davidlevinsky

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NJ Spotlight - More School Districts Move Elections Into November…The chance to remove school budgets from the ballot continues to attract districts statewide … “Among those making the change was Glen Ridge, where the school board last year in April saw its lowest turnout in history.“We decided that nothing terrible has happened to the 80 percent of districts who switched to November last year,” said Elisabeth Ginsburg, the school board’s president. “Our process here is truly nonpartisan and Borough Council members already run that way in November with no partisan interference,” she said in an email. “We didn't really see a downside.”

By John Mooney, February 20, 2013 in Education|Post a Comment

 

A year after the initial migration, New Jersey school districts continue to shift their school elections to November.

Related Links

New Districts Moving School Elections Into November

Shift to November Ballots Boosts School Election Turnout

The list is not yet official, but the New Jersey School Boards Association said press reports and confirmations indicate that at least 25 more districts have decided to move their April board votes into November, to coincide with the general election. Districts ranged from one of the state’s largest in Jersey City to one of its smallest in South Hackensack.

In turn, the change in dates lets these districts remove their school budgets from the ballot entirely, as long as they stay within state caps.

Changing the date of the school board vote is intended to boost the turnout for these elections, which traditionally attract few voters.

Last year, when the new law was enacted, nearly 470 districts made the jump from April to November. If the associate's count is accurate, that brings to total to 492 districts thus far.

That leaves just 49 districts staying put in April, including a few that considered a change and opted against it -- Metuchen and Paterson being among them.

But a spokesman for the association said after the first year on the new date, the prospect of a November vote and an exemption on the school budget vote continued to be attractive.

“Many districts were taking a wait-and-see, and observing how it went for other districts,” said Frank Belluscio, the association’s communications director. “And after a groundswell last year, it was no surprise that it continued.”

Belluscio said a number of factors proved pivotal for districts, chief among them the exemption of the budget from a popular vote. But he said other factors arose as well.

“One is the money saved,” he said of the cost of holding separate elections. “For a medium to large district, that could be a sizable amount of money.”

He also said concerns remained about the more partisan nature of November votes, especially with the governor and entire Legislature up for re-election this year. Complaints also arose over where the nonpartisan elections were placed on the ballot, which made it hard to distinguish them from local, state, and national tickets.

“But even so, the positives [moving to November] outweighed the negatives,” Belluscio said.

Among those making the change was Glen Ridge, where the school board last year in April saw its lowest turnout in history.

“We decided that nothing terrible has happened to the 80 percent of districts who switched to November last year,” said Elisabeth Ginsburg, the school board’s president.

“Our process here is truly nonpartisan and Borough Council members already run that way in November with no partisan interference,” she said in an email. “We didn't really see a downside.”


NJSpotlight (http://s.tt/1zZC0)

 

NJ Spotlight - Two Newest Paterson Charters Are Well Connected -- With Established Networks…The latest charter schools approvals may indicate the state is leaning toward providers with proven track records… “Twenty-five charter schools have opened since Christie was elected, 18 since Cerf took office. A total of 46 have been approved under Christie, the bulk of them in 2010 when the administration approved 36 new schools. Since Cerf came on board, just 14 have been approved. In addition, five charter schools have been closed due to poor performance and mismanagement.”

By John Mooney, February 20, 2013 in Education|Post a Comment

The Christie administration’s quiet announcement last week of the preliminary approval of two more charter schools -- both in Paterson -- points to the emergence of larger charter networks as the dominant force in the movement.

After the close of business Friday, the state Department of Education announced the newest schools, both belonging to charter networks that have made their marks elsewhere.

One is the first New Jersey foray of the Ascend Learning charter schools, which has deep ties to New York City. The other is the latest in a line of charters that started in the state under the leadership of Nihat Guvercin, with schools already in Paterson and Garfield.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said this week that there was no specific aim to bring more charters to Paterson, only that these were the two best from the nine applications that were filed.

“There is nothing about Paterson in particular,” Cerf said in an interview. “These were the ones that emerged with the highest probability of success. These are proven models with strong track records, and they both happen to be in Paterson.”

The nature of the latest application process favored schools from larger networks, with the state specifically reaching out to those with proven track records. The next round in April will allow for a wider field.

Still, Cerf said that these new schools add to a growing list of charter networks that have more than gotten their foot in the door in New Jersey, with organizations such as KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Mastery.

KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is the largest of the group, not only continuing to grow in Newark but also close to finalizing another five schools in Camden.

“If you look across the board, we really have some terrific schools operating in New Jersey,” Cerf said, listing schools from larger charter management organizations. “We’re really aiming for success. We haven’t gotten them all right, but I think we’ve seen some really terrific schools.”

When asked whether the state was favoring the network schools, Cerf said he was seeking a balance.

“We’re looking at models that work, and definitely seeing some one-off schools that have tremendous potential,” he said. “But this is really hard work, and we are looking for good reasons to give a charter, and one point of evidence is they have a track record of success.”

The addition of any charter schools in the state prompts debate these days, and charter organizations especially draw questions. The approval specifically of the Paterson Collegiate Charter School, the latest Ascend Learning charter school, has raised some questions as to whether it belongs in New Jersey.

“Everyone else has been home grown for us,” said Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund. “This obviously isn’t that, the first time we have seen an external charter group want to come here.”

Others maintained the lack of local input on the two new charters continued a pattern for this administration.

“The Christie administration has demonstrated time and time again that local wishes play no significant role in charter approvals in the state of New Jersey, despite declarations that the application process requires ‘solicitation of input from the public,’ “ said Darcie Cimarusti, an organizaer with Save our Schools NJ, a grassroots group that has spoken out against the state’s charter school policies.

“The approval of these two particular applications in Paterson, without local input, to [applicants] with significant out-of-state and international ties, seems a clear indication that the days of local control of ‘mom-and-pop’ charters in New Jersey are long gone,” she said.

A call to Ascend Learning was not returned this week, but Cerf contended its track record in Brooklyn was enough proof for him. “It’s the highest-performing school in Brooklyn with high-poverty students,” he said.

Still, he was cognizant of the hot politics around charter schools, especially with Gov. Chris Christie running for reelection. Cerf was spotted with his top charter school staff outside the governor’s office last week, the day before the latest charter announcement.

There is no shortage of charter news to come. The state is about to decide on 16 charter renewals, close to a quarter of the state’s charter school roster overall. Another big decision comes this spring when Cerf has to decide whether to green-light two charter schools that would be predominantly online. The state’s dominant teachers union has sued the state trying to block the final approval.

And battles continue from town to town over the prospect of the alternative schools opening up, the latest in Florence Township over a charter school there that was seeking to expand. In the face of public pressure, the school withdrew its expansion plans.

Still, Cerf maintained on Monday that the Christie administration has not pulled back from new charters, but instead has focused more on the highest-quality models. He said the two approved in the latest round were consistent with past approvals.

“It’s about the same ratio as the past few years,” he said. “The pace has been very constant.”

Twenty-five charter schools have opened since Christie was elected, 18 since Cerf took office. A total of 46 have been approved under Christie, the bulk of them in 2010 when the administration approved 36 new schools. Since Cerf came on board, just 14 have been approved. In addition, five charter schools have been closed due to poor performance and mismanagement.


NJSpotlight (http://s.tt/1zZBT)

 

 


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160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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