Home About GSCS What's New Issues School Funding Coming Up
Quick Links
Meeting Schedule
NJ Legislature
Governor's Office
NJ Department of Education
State Board of Education
GSCS Testimonies
GSCS Data & Charts
Contact Us

Email: gscschools@gmail.com
Phone: 609-394-2828 (office)
             732-618-5755 (cell)

Mailing Address:
Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
160 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08608

Newsletters and More
Sign Up
Search
Twitter

10-25-11 Education & Reated Issues in the News
Press of Atlantic City - School officials concerned about how to implement new anti-bullying law

NJ Spotlight - Afterschool Fund Falls Victim to Line-Item Veto, Battered Economy…New Jersey After 3, which once funded programs for thousands of kids, to go dark.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Lawmaker: School aid formula works if its funded

New Jersey Newsroom - Over 3K desks available for 2012-13 N.J. public school choice program

The Record - Education chief says no to higher ticket prices

Press of Atlantic City - School officials concerned about how to implement new anti-bullying law

By DIANE D’AMICO Staff Writer | Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:45 am

ATLANTIC CITY — School officials throughout the state are worried about getting a failing grade on how they respond to bullying. So they are talking to legislators about modifying the state’s tough new anti-bullying law.

But one of the law’s strongest advocates, Stuart Green, says he would oppose any changes. He said if all school districts spent more time worrying about the bullying and less time worrying about the paperwork, the state might not need such a strict law in the first place.

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) hosted a packed workshop on the new law at the New Jersey School Boards Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center Monday. Many of those attending mentioned the time it takes to investigate and report on incidents (which includes an 18-page compliance checklist) and whether the lengthy bureaucratic process could turn minor skirmishes into major issues.

“There is a learning curve,” said Beth Finkelstein, an attorney who works with the NJASA. “Real-life situations are now coming in. People are trying to to err on the side of caution in reporting, but still not over-report.”

Joseph Ricca, a school superintendent in East Hanover Township in Morris County, said the law was put in place to protect children, and that must remain the focus.

“The law is just trying to make sure we do it,” he said. “But there is fine line between bothering and bullying. It’s a question of balance.”

He advised keeping parents informed right from the beginning, so they know every incident is taken seriously.

“In any incident, both children need support,” he said. “You have to take the time to talk to the parents.”

Richard Bozza, executive director of the NJASA, said after the workshop that there are concerns about the cost of having both a bullying investigator and a bullying coordinator in each school, even if the roles are assigned to existing personnel.

Greater Egg Harbor Regional Superintendent Steven Ciccariello said so far they have investigated a few incidents at the district’s three high schools and his only issue with the new law is the time it takes to complete the process.

“Everything must be investigated right away, so the person assigned to do it is pulled away from something else. But it’s important work, and if it can help a child it’s worth it,” he said.

The new law allocates no additional funds for the program, and the Alamuchey (Warren County) School District has filed a complaint with the state Council on Local Mandates, charging that the law is an unfunded state mandate.

Bozza suggested some incidents could be handled in a less-bureaucratic manner, by the school principal.

“We are hearing from parents that kids are being labeled bullies over minor incidents,” he said.

But Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, said in a phone interview that he still gets a couple of calls a day from parents saying their child is bullied on a regular basis.

“Children need to be protected and we are still not doing it well enough,” he said. “If schools didn’t want this law, they should have done a better job with the 2002 (anti-bullying) law. I see this through the eyes of parents and children, and for schools to complain that they are now being made to do this is outrageous.”

School officials at the conference said they don’t disagree with the intent of the law, but only its implementation, which they believe could hurt children.

Mark Stanwood, director of professional development at Rowan University and a former school superintendent, said people are nervous about compliance because the law is still so new. It requires the state Department of Education to grade districts on their compliance, and no district wants to get a failing grade.

Several people expressed concerns that, by giving bullying more attention they could actually get a poor grade from the state because the number of incidents investigated will rise.

Atlantic County Executive Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dowd said he has received a lot of calls from school officials and there is some concern about over-reacting. He advised district officials and school-board members to focus on compliance, common sense and communication.

Green said everyone worries about lawsuits, but in reality there are very few and they are cases where the bullying went on for years.

He said if school officials are anxious, it may be because they aren’t doing a great job of addressing bullying in their school.

“The law is not about dotting i’s and crossing t’s,” he said.“It’s a demand that bullying be prioritized. It’s good that it’s getting all this attention.”

Contact Diane D’Amico:

609-272-7241

DDamico@pressofac.com

 

NJ Spotlight  - Afterschool Fund Falls Victim to Line-Item Veto, Battered Economy…New Jersey After 3, which once funded programs for thousands of kids, to go dark.

By John Mooney, October 25 in Education|

 

New Jersey After 3, the statewide program that funded afterschool for thousands of New Jersey students, has told sponsors and supporters that it will cease operations next week.

The program, established in 2004, steadily saw its state funding cut in the past three years.

In an email yesterday, New Jersey After 3 president and chief executive Mark Valli said the final blow was the elimination of the last $3 million in state funding under Gov. Chris Christie's 2012 budget.

"This difficult decision follows the loss of state funding and the subsequent loss of private and matching funds in the context of an uncertain economic environment," Valli wrote.

New Jersey After 3 had virtually ceased awarding grants to private and public afterschool programs this fall and was down to a skeleton staff. It had hoped for other funding sources to materialize, but they did not do so without the state money as a foundation, Valli wrote.

"After exploring virtually every option and following much thoughtful discussion, it was determined that New Jersey After 3's business model -- and the benefits of its economies of scale that relied on a robust public/private partnership -- are no longer sustainable," he wrote.

Contacted yesterday, Valli confirmed the email and said a public announcement would come this week. His email said the organization would shut down on Monday, the last day of the month.

Launched in part with state money under former Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2004, the private nonprofit entity topped out at $15 million in state funding in 2007 and saw its programs serve 15,000 students in 2008.

Its hallmark was a structured strategy that aimed to infuse afterschools -- ranging from YMCAs to public schools -- with academic tutoring, sports and fitness, family support, and other help. The programs lasted for up to three hours a day.

In the past four years as the economy soured, New Jersey After 3 moved ever closer to the edge. Two years ago, state funding was reduced to $10 million, and that was followed by a cut to $3 million last year. Still, it also raised $2.2 million in private funds and was able to survive.

Despite intensive lobbying by Valli and others, Christie then eliminated the state funding altogether in the current budget, and the organization could not make it up.

Before the cut, the program's reach was down to 5,000 children last year. While some of its grantees survived on other funding, only about 2,200 children were being served through its programs this fall.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said he received the phone message from Valli yesterday, telling him of the program's demise. Lesniak had been instrumental in trying to restore the funding in this year's budget, but it was among scores of entries that fell victim to Christie's line-item veto. A vote to override the veto fell short.

"It's a big loss for our state," Lesniak said in an email last night. "From 25,000 children getting afterschool learning in a healthy environment to zero, creating a void and a difficult task for low-income families, most often single mothers, to handle.

"Governor Christie has no compassion or understanding for issues like this," he wrote.

Efforts to reach Christie's spokesman last night were unsuccessful, but the governor's office had argued in making the cut that New Jersey After 3 was never intended to rely on state funding in perpetuity.

"The remaining $3 million allocated for the New Jersey After 3 non-profit group would be removed from the budget this year, completing the goal of phasing out state funding and moving the program to financial independence as a self-sustaining non-profit agency," read the governor's budget summary.

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - Lawmaker: School aid formula works if its funded

TRENTON, N.J. - Senate President Stephen Sweeney is questioning the Christie administration's efforts to change the way public schools are funded before it fully funds them using a formula approved by the state Supreme Court.

Sweeney sent a letter Monday to Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, seeking details on a group of independent consultants who Sweeney says have been asked to recommend changes to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

The law eliminated low-income districts known as "Abbotts" and created a formula where aid to schools follows the child.

Christie has said he wants a different formula. But the Legislature would have to approve any changes.

Sweeney says he didn't get an immediate response to his request.

 

New Jersey Newsroom  - Over 3K desks available for 2012-13 N.J. public school choice program

Monday, 24 October 2011 16:32

1,878 students participating in current school year

BY TOM HESTER SR.
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

71 New Jersey school districts expect to have 3,126 open desks available when the 2012-13 school year begins in September under the so-called Interdistrict Choice program that enables parents to send their children to schools outside their district without cost, the state Department of Education announced Monday.

There are 1,878 students in the program for the current 2011-2012 school year.

The program was developed by Gov. Chris Christie to enable the parents of children stuck in bad schools, especially in the inner cities, to transfer to a better learning environment.

"All children, regardless of where they are born, should have the same hope and opportunity that comes with attending a school that works best for them, DOE Commissioner Chris Cerf said. “The Interdistrict Public School Choice program empowers parents to make the best educational choices for their children, so they have the best chance for a successful future. This program also allows districts to maximize enrollment and more efficiently use space in their schools."

Any student in the state is eligible to enroll in the program, regardless of whether or not their home district is participating. Transportation of up to 20 miles, or funds to pay for transportation, will be provided by the district of residence to a student going to a choice school. If the school is outside of the 20-mile radius, transportation will be the responsibility of the student, parents or guardians.

District participation in the program is optional. The decision to apply to participate is made by the local board of education. The district then sends an application to the DOE for processing and review. This year, Elsinboro Township District in Salem County and Franklin Township District in Hunterdon joined the program.

The choice school sets the number of openings per grade level. If there are more students requesting admission to the school than there are available openings, the school chooses the students by lottery. Any school-age student who is a resident of New Jersey is eligible to take advantage of this program.

Parents who would like their child to take part in the program may obtain an Intent to Participate form from the DOE website at

http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/forms/NoticeOfIntentForm.pdf and return it to their home district by the Nov. 1 deadline. Applications may be obtained by contacting the choice school districts directly and are due by Dec. 1.

More details on the program can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice.

A list of the schools participating in the program can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/districts/.

 

The Record - Education chief says no to higher ticket prices

tuesday, october 25, 2011

by gregory schutta

The NJSIAA took a hit from the acting commissioner of education on Monday when he rejected the association's request to raise ticket prices to state tournament events this fall across the board and in two instances lowered the price slightly from last year.

The association will be permitted to charge $9 for adults and $3 for students and seniors for sectional championship football games at MetLife Stadium and Rutgers the first weekend of December.

That's the same price as the commissioner allowed last year but less than the $10 the association had requested for adults this time.

But acting commissioner Christopher Cerf lowered the price for football games the same weekend at Kean and The College of New Jersey to $5.50 for adults — 50 cents less than was charged last year and less than the $8 requested by the association.

He did the same for state championship games in boys and girls soccer at The College of New Jersey, cutting the adult price from $6 to $5 for games scheduled from Nov. 14 through 20. The association had requested $8.

"I think the decision to lower the prices in some instances reflects the attention that the commissioner is paying to the need for lower ticket prices," said Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), a frequent critic of the association and the author of the law limiting what it could charge for these events.

"It shows that the law is working and that more work needs to be done."

NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said in a press release Monday that the ticket prices are sufficient to finance the tournaments this fall and reiterated the association's claims that the pricing law is strangling it financially.

"While additional communication with the Department of Education is pending, the initial ticket pricing structure we received is sufficient to enable us to continue holding championship competitions," the statement read. "However, if not revised, this level of pricing could very well create hardships related to several other important initiatives."

The NJSIAA has said because of the limit in what it can charge, its surplus has dwindled. The net effect, the association has said, is that it will have to cut back educational programs for coaches and in athlete safety.

The commissioner also permitted the association to charge $6 for adults for field hockey championships at TCNJ, less than the $8 requested, and $6 for volleyball championships at William Paterson University and the state gymnastics tournament at various public schools — which is what the association requested.

Students and seniors will be charged the same $2 they were charged last year for all tournament events except sectional championship football games at MetLife Stadium and Rutgers. The NJSIAA also announced Monday that the South public school sectional football championships will be played at Rowan University after all.

A controversy erupted earlier this fall when the association chose to play those four games at a neutral site rather than at the homes of the higher seeds, and then scheduled them to be held at The College of New Jersey near Trenton because no other suitable site could be found in South Jersey.

Rowan, which had been dismissed from consideration for this year because of scheduled renovations to the school's field house, got the nod Monday when it was learned that the renovations had been delayed for economic reasons.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828