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9-24-14 Education and Related Issues in the News
Star Ledger - Giving N.J.'s poor kids a leg up in school: Q&A ‘People are willing to put up with inequality of outcomes as long as there is something close to equal opportunity. When the school bell rings at 3 p.m., wealthy American kids move on to tutorials, music lessons, and unpaid internships. They spend thousands of extra hours with supportive adults. Low-income kids can’t match that, and it’s a key reason the achievement gap is growing at an alarming rate. Eric Schwarz is working to even the playing field…’

Star Ledger – Rural NJ school districts need more funding, lawsuit against DOE states ‘A fight for better funding in 16 rural New Jersey school districts— known as "Bacon districts" — has led to a lawsuit filed by the Education Law Center against the New Jersey Department of Education'

NJ Spotlight - New School-Funding Case Turns Spotlight on State’s Rural Districts…’According to complaint, 16 poor school systems are being underfunded by nearly $20 million’

Press of Atlantic City-Opinion - Another tax amnesty / Whatever works ‘…It is also worth noting that, as NJSpotlight.com reported, governors all over the country - Republican and Democratic - have been resorting to tax amnesties…’

NJ Spotlight - Debates in Camden Continue -- But Is Anybody Listening to the Community? ‘Urban Hope Act comes up for final vote next week, could open way to further charter-school expansion in that city’

Star Ledger - Giving N.J.'s poor kids a leg up in school: Q&A   ‘People are willing to put up with inequality of outcomes as long as there is something close to equal opportunity. When the school bell rings at 3 p.m., wealthy American kids move on to tutorials, music lessons, and unpaid internships. They spend thousands of extra hours with supportive adults. Low-income kids can’t match that, and it’s a key reason the achievement gap is growing at an alarming rate.  Eric Schwarz is working to even the playing field…’

Star Ledger – Rural NJ school districts need more funding, lawsuit against DOE states  ‘A fight for better funding in 16 rural New Jersey school districts— known as "Bacon districts" — has led to a lawsuit filed by the Education Law Center against the New Jersey Department of Education…

NJ Spotlight - New School-Funding Case Turns Spotlight on State’s Rural Districts…’According to complaint, 16 poor school systems are being underfunded by nearly $20 million’

Press of Atlantic City-Opinion - Another tax amnesty / Whatever works ‘…It is also worth noting that, as NJSpotlight.com reported, governors all over the country - Republican and Democratic - have been resorting to tax amnesties…’

NJ Spotlight - Debates in Camden Continue -- But Is Anybody Listening to the Community?   ‘Urban Hope Act comes up for final vote next week, could open way to further charter-school expansion in that city’

Star Ledger - Giving N.J.'s poor kids a leg up in school: Q&A   

By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on September 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM, updated September 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

 

People are willing to put up with inequality of outcomes as long as there is something close to equal opportunity. When the school bell rings at 3 p.m., wealthy American kids move on to tutorials, music lessons, and unpaid internships. They spend thousands of extra hours with supportive adults. Low-income kids can’t match that, and it’s a key reason the achievement gap is growing at an alarming rate.  Eric Schwarz is working to even the playing field…

When the school bell rings at 3 p.m., wealthy American kids move on to tutorials, music lessons, and unpaid internships. They spend thousands of extra hours with supportive adults. Low-income kids can’t match that, and it’s a key reason the achievement gap is growing at an alarming rate.

Eric Schwarz is working to even the playing field. He founded Citizen Schools, an extended day school program that relies on professional staff and volunteers to engage low-income kids in a range of constructive activities with supportive adults – proving extra help on math, teaching carpentry or computer engineering, or helping start a school newspaper. He recently wrote a book on this entitled, “The Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers are Combating the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools.”

It started in Boston, and now serves roughly 6,000 kids in 11 cities, including two middle schools in Newark. It may expand into Jersey City and Elizabeth.

Schwarz spoke with Tom Moran, editorial page editor of the Star-Ledger. An edited transcript appears below. And full disclosure: Schwarz and Moran are personal friends.

Q. Let’s start with the problem you’re trying to address: You note the achievement gap between low-income kids and their wealthier peers has doubled in the last few generations. Are poor kids slipping?

A. No, poor kids and middle-income kids are learning a little more, based on scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The driver of the achievement gap is that upper-income kids are learning much, much more. They are benefiting from a shadow education system in the after-school hours that works very well. It gives them more coaching, more enrichment, more internships, more chances for creative innovation – all things kids need to succeed in the future.

Q. You suggest the cause of this gap is one part school – and three parts factors outside of school. Like what?

A. The investments parents make. When I grew up, upper-income parents spent about three times as much as low-income parents on things like SAT prep courses, coaching, and summer camp. Now it’s almost nine times as much.

Time spent with caring adults is another. By the time a low-income kid gets to sixth grade, he or she will have spent 6,000 fewer hours with a caring adult than an upper-income kid.

Q. If this gap continues to widen, what are the consequences for the country?

A. It’s very serious. People are willing to put up with inequality of outcomes as long as there is something close to equal opportunity. But that becomes a joke the more that the zip code you’re born into drives outcomes. That undermines the American ideal, the founding brand of this country.

And it has economic consequences for all Americans. McKinsey & Company, the consultant, estimated that under-performance of low-income kids reduces the GDP by three to five percent, about what we saw in the Great Recession.

Q. How is Citizens Schools trying to address this?

A. We partner with middle schools across the country, including Newark, to give kids three extra hours of learning a day by bringing in a second shift of educators. Some are AmeriCorps members, some are local lawyers, or scientists or engineers or financial advisers. They teach apprenticeships where kids can see the link between school and the real world. They see that algebra is not just something a teacher says they should learn, but is something they can use to build a video game. And they build a video game. They also get more academic coaching in small groups, which reinforces the regular teaching in a powerful way.

Q. And mentoring plays a role, right?

A. Yes. These are caring and successful adults and it gives a window into different careers. How likely is a girl growing up in a low-income neighborhood of Newark to become an engineer if she’s never met an engineer?

Q. In the book, you describe the advantages you had, that you were given more tools to succeed than most children. What were the key pieces?

A. I had a lot of chances to fail, and a helping hand to pick me up and try again. I had summer camps, sports, enrichment opportunities. Not all of them worked, but a few became transformative for me. I had a series of internships in high school, with a non-profit, with a judge, with a U.S. senator – all by the time I was 19. That put me in a position to succeed. And a lot of kids don’t have that.

Q. So your core aim is to give low-income kids those same tools?

A. Yes

Q. What’s the evidence that it’s working?

A. Kids embrace it, families embrace it, and schools embrace it. We’ve done one 10-year longitudinal study which showed it is erasing the achievement gap in the high-stakes 10th grade tests in Massachusetts. It also shows we are erasing the gap in finishing high school on time. And our own internal data is showing we are erasing the gap on entering college and narrowing it on finishing college. We’re in the middle of another study now and early signs are that our schools deliver an extra three to five months of learning per year, equivalent to or higher than the nation’s most celebrated charter schools.

Q. You describe the challenges of growing Citizens Schools, and spreading it beyond its birthplace in Boston. What do you need most to bring this to scale?

A. The number one fuel for our growth, in addition to money, is AmeriCorps members and what we call citizen power, the volunteers. AmeriCorps was set to grow to 250,000 members but it’s only one-third of that. The other key is getting school districts to think anew about how they are spending their resources. They need to put money in to make this work, but we match the money. So in Newark’s case, we can deliver 40 percent more time for five percent of the total per pupil cost.

Q. You ask near the end if America has lost its mojo when it comes to meeting grand challenges like this. You are optimistic, and I’m not. Please convince me I’m wrong.

A. We live in a time of great innovation in education, and growing inequality. I’m optimistic that upper-income families and business leaders will see that it’s in the interests of all Americans to find ways to provide more opportunity for low-income kids. As that sinks in, and people see common-sense solutions like Citizen Schools, they will invest. It’s the rational thing to do.

Star Ledger – Rural NJ school districts need more funding, lawsuit against DOE states

By Don E. Woods | South Jersey Times South Jersey Newspapers
Follow on Twitter
on September 23, 2014 at 5:07 PM, updated September 23, 2014 at 5:52 PM

A fight for better funding in 16 rural New Jersey school districts— known as "Bacon districts" — has led to a lawsuit filed by the Education Law Center against the New Jersey Department of Education.

The majority of the schools districts listed in the lawsuit are located in the South Jersey area and have been be inadequately funded when compared to other districts, the complaint argues.

"It's heart wrenching for the children that they're not having the same as everybody else — that I'm not able to provide the same opportunities as our surrounding districts," said Lisa DiNovi, business administrator for Myron L. Powell School in Lawrence Township.

The Education Law Center, a public school advocacy organization, filed a complaint against the state Department of Education on Sept. 15 in Mercer County Superior Court. The lawsuit asks for the appropriate funding required under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.

The New Jersey Department of Education declined to comment because it is pending litigation.

According to the Education Law Center, school aid was cut in 2011 and remained stagnant ever since — leaving Bacon districts underfunded by approximately $18 million and depriving an estimated 2,000 children of high-quality preschools.

The Bacon districts listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are from Buena, Clayton, Commercial Township, Egg Harbor Township, Fairfield Township, Hammonton Township, Lakehurt, Lakewood, Lawrence Township, Little Egg Harbor Township, Maurice River Township, Ocean Township, Quinton, Upper Deerfield Township, Wallington and Woodbine.

"We feel as though we do a good job," said Superintendent David Lindenmuth of Clayton Public Schools. "Our students are excellent and our staff does a great job but, if we get the funding we're entitled to, we could do even more programs and provide more resources to our students and their families to better the community."

Lindenmuth hopes to use additional funding to improve the preschool that is comparable to preschools in urban districts that receive more funding.

"If we got the funding it would allow our students to move on to bigger and better things as they move on in education," Lindenmuth said.

In Commercial Township, interim Superintendent Shelly Schneider explained that additional funding would help with extracurricular programs that had to be cut or scaled back.

"Our students right now don't have art or music per se, so we're struggling to find ways to get them exposed to the Common Core in those subjects," Schneider said.

This includes using the full-time teachers who don't have experience in those subjects attempting to teach the programs.

Schneider also explained that additional funding would help with the preschool program for Commercial Township School District.

"I think public schools are created to be fair for all students and I believe our students aren't getting a fair shake to meet their needs," the superintendent said.

The lawsuit requests that the state Department of Education increase state aid so that it complies with the School Funding Reform Act, additional funding where necessary in the districts and the determination of how much that aid will increase in subsequent years as based of the School Funding Reform Act.

According to the Education Law Center, the Department of Education has until Nov. 7 to respond to the complaint and a court date before Judge Mary Jacobson is scheduled on Dec. 11 for arguments.

Don E. Woods may be reached at dwoods@southjerseymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @donewoods1. Find the South Jersey Times on Facebook

 

NJ Spotlight - New School-Funding Case Turns Spotlight on State’s Rural Districts

John Mooney | September 24, 2014

According to complaint, 16 poor school systems are being underfunded by nearly $20 million

In yet another foray into the judicial arena that has become central to New Jersey’s school-funding struggles, lawyers have filed a formal complaint against the Christie administration over its failure to fully fund 16 mostly rural districts.

Related Links

Bacon v. NJ Department of Education

Akin to the state’s landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation that has centered on urban districts, the latest complaint in the case known as Bacon v. NJ Department of Education keeps alive a nearly 20-year-old claim as to whether the state has provided adequate resources to poor, rural districts such as Lakewood, Buena Regional, and Woodbine.

The lawyers, led by the organization leading the Abbott litigation, this summer put the administration on notice that a complaint would be filed, and on September 15, they kept that promise, filing the formal complaint in state Superior Court in Mercer County. Arguments are scheduled for December 11.

The complaint claims that the state has failed to adequately fund the School Funding Reform Act, violating a 2008 state appellate court ruling in the Bacon case to provide the needed resources to these districts, including for mandated preschool.

“The children in our district cannot wait any longer,” Upper Deerfield Superintendent Peter Koza said in the announcement of the latest filing.

“We need funding under the formula so we can provide them with the tools they need to succeed in school,” Koza’s statement read. “One of those tools -- high-quality preschool -- has been shown to benefit students well into their elementary years. It is our fervent hope that the State will be instructed to provide these needed resources to our district.”

The complaint alleges that the 16 districts are underfunded by $18 million, and about 2,000 eligible schoolchildren are being denied access to mandated preschool.

Said Hammonton Superintendent C. Dan Blachford: “Hammonton continues to be severely underfunded, and early this year the NJDOE sent us a letter stating we are under adequacy by $11,919,928.

“We only have a half-day preschool program, and this severely limits our ability to provide an effective education to students who are at risk,” his statement read. “Furthermore, using the model-district program, we should have 51 additional teachers and 12 additional administrators.”

The full list of affected districts is: Buena Regional, Clayton, Commercial, Egg Harbor, Fairfield, Hammonton Township, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lawrence, Little Egg Harbor, Maurice River, Ocean Township, Quinton, Upper Deerfield, Wallington, and Woodbine.

But while directly affecting only a handful of districts, the case is seen among critics and advocacy groups as a potential harbinger in pressing Gov. Chris Christie to meet the obligations of the SFRA funding formula.

The formula hasn’t been funded since its first year under former Gov. Jon Corzine, and after steep cuts by Christie in 2010, three-quarters of all districts still have not returned to prior levels in funding.

“That our State has chosen to ignore a court order for nearly six years is concerning,” said Susan Cauldwell, executive director of Save Our Schools NJ Community Organizing.

“Study after study has demonstrated the lasting benefits of high-quality preschool programs, particularly for low-income students,” she said last night. “These benefits last well into elementary school . . . The state must comply with the court order.”

 

Press of Atlantic City-Opinion - Another tax amnesty / Whatever works ‘…It is also worth noting that, as NJSpotlight.com reported, governors all over the country - Republican and Democratic - have been resorting to tax amnesties…’

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:01 am

Confronted with a budget problem that has been years in the making and that is now a full-blown crisis, Gov. Chris Christie is making a deal with the devil and offering a tax amnesty.

At least, that's pretty much how he described the tax amnesty that former Gov. Jon S. Corzine offered in 2009 when the two were running against each other for governor. Tax amnesties are one-shot gimmicks that encourage people to evade paying their taxes until the next amnesty is offered, Christie said.

He is, of course, right on both points. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And this being the Christie administration, Treasury officials were quick to say that this tax amnesty was not a tax amnesty at all.

But it most definitely is an amnesty - and we're not complaining. Tax amnesties may be one-shot gimmicks, but they are one-shot gimmicks you can do every few years. And they work. Right now, that's pretty much all that matters.

Corzine's 2009 amnesty raised a record $725 million. According to NJSpotlight.com, state workers opened envelopes that contained $200 million in checks in just one day.

So, with New Jersey facing a $275 million shortfall in the current budget, declining casino tax revenues, no clear way to balance the next budget - and with the governor conveniently out of town - the Treasury Department announced the non-amnesty amnesty last Wednesday.

Under the program, scofflaws with unpaid tax bills from 2005 through 2013 can now pay their back taxes and interest with reduced or limited penalties, no collection costs and no fear of prosecution. True, it's not quite a full amnesty, which requires legislative approval and usually waives or lowers the interest. But it's close enough.

(If maybe you know somebody who knows somebody who might have reason to be interested in this program, you can direct them to njtaxation.org/fall2014 for more details. The offer expires Nov. 17.)

Only five years have passed since the last amnesty. Corzine's 2009 amnesty came seven years after one offered in 2002 by then Gov. Jim McGreevey (who recovered $277 million). But Christie's plan wisely extends way back to 2005. Those were boom times on Wall Street, and with many financial professionals living in New Jersey, the potential take is probably huge.

It is also worth noting that, as NJSpotlight.com reported, governors all over the country - Republican and Democratic - have been resorting to tax amnesties. No, it's not an ideal way to run a government. But it's a realistic way to generate a windfall when you need one. Which is where New Jersey is right now.

 

NJ Spotlight - Debates in Camden Continue -- But Is Anybody Listening to the Community?

John Mooney | September 24, 2014

Urban Hope Act comes up for final vote next week, could open way to further charter-school expansion in that city

Camden schools continue in the cross-hairs of debate this week, as Gov. Chris Christie pays another visit today and the Legislature looks ready to extend a controversial law to open the district further to charter schools.

NJ Spotlight’s John Mooney spoke with WNYC Public Radio’s Amy Eddings yesterday about the many developments concerning the state-operated district, including questions as to whether new community protests about Christie’s reform efforts are starting to have an impact.

That has hardly evident among the state’s politicians, as Christie is set for an afternoon visit to both a new charter school in the district and Camden High School’s varsity football team.

Meanwhile, the state Assembly yesterday posted a bill for final vote next week that would extend for another year the Urban Hope Act, a 2012 law that opened the way for large charter networks to set up shop in the district. Three charter organizations have already been approved, with plans to open as many as 15 new schools.

The bill was already approved once, but saw a conditional veto by Christie over a provision for early-retirement incentives for Camden teachers. The Senate approved the changes earlier this week by a 32-1 vote.

The prime sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), said yesterday that it was important that the bill still win approval.

“While I remain disappointed that Gov. Christie conditionally vetoed the revisions to the Urban Hope Act presented to him by the Legislature, I am committed to ensuring that the children of Camden have first-class facilities to nurture their educational growth,” he said. “This proposal will move Camden forward towards that goal.”

 


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