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2-26-12 State budget, School Elections, and Federal Grant funds for local reform initiatives
My Central Jersey - Plan to hike spending per student still means aid cuts for 97 districts… “…Suburban school districts that for years complained they were short-changed by the state’s school funding formula found much to cheer about when Gov. Chris Christie released new aid figures last week..."

Star Ledger - Acting N.J. education chief reconsiders using school free-lunch programs to measure poverty

My Central Jersey - Plan to hike spending per student still means aid cuts for 97 districts

Star Ledger - Scores of N.J. school districts moving elections from April to November…”… Strickland’s greatest concern was a provision in the law that allowed local governing bodies to move elections even without the consent of school boards…[yet] school boards are responsible and want to do the best for their kids," Strickland said. "I think they are very hopeful that, without having separate April elections, they can get a budget done appropriately but stay focused on the education of their students throughout the school year..."

Star Ledger - … “About half of the state’s school districts have agreed to implement some of the Christie Administration’s education reforms in exchange for a slice of a $38million federal grant…”

My Central Jersey  - Plan to hike spending per student still means aid cuts for 97 districts… “…Suburban school districts that for years complained they were short-changed by the state’s school funding formula found much to cheer about when Gov. Chris Christie released new aid figures last week...”

Star Ledger - Acting N.J. education chief reconsiders using school free-lunch programs to measure poverty

Asbury Park Press - Funding formula still inadequate … “…For far too long, suburban schools in New Jersey have gotten short shrift in the yearly lottery known as the state school aid allotments. The Christie administration is looking to change that. The Legislature should welcome the changes.”

The Record - As suburban schools weigh use of new aid, city districts worry cuts may spur layoffs

Star Ledger - Scores of N.J. school districts moving elections from April to November…”… Strickland’s greatest concern was a provision in the law that allowed local governing bodies to move elections even without the consent of school boards…[yet] school boards are responsible and want to do the best for their kids," Strickland said. "I think they are very hopeful that, without having separate April elections, they can get a budget done appropriately but stay focused on the education of their students throughout the school year.

Star Ledger - About half of N.J. school districts implement Christie reforms for chunk of federal grant … “About half of the state’s school districts have agreed to implement some of the Christie Administration’s education reforms in exchange for a slice of a $38million federal grant…”

 

My Central Jersey  - Plan to hike spending per student still means aid cuts for 97 districts

9:42 PM, Feb. 25, 2012 |  Comments Written by Jean Mikle and Todd B. Bates

 

Suburban school districts that for years complained they were short-changed by the state’s school funding formula found much to cheer about when Gov. Chris Christie released new aid figures last week.

The Long Beach Island Consolidated school district saw its aid jump 55 percent, to $638,220. State aid to the tiny Deal district, which operates one small school, soared more than 62 percent, to $1.9 million.

Freehold Regional saw the biggest dollar increase in the state: $3.2 million, or 6.6 percent.

“We’re very, very pleased, to say the least,” said Anthony F. Moro Jr., superintendent, principal and board secretary for the Deal district. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf touted a proposed $135 million increase in state aid, noting that overall, school aid is increasing about $121 per pupil across New Jersey.

But that provided little solace for the 97 districts that would lose aid. Some of the state’s poorest districts would absorb the biggest cuts. Cerf said in a statement that 35 of the 97 districts that lost aid would receive less money because their enrollment has declined.

Christie’s aid proposal will be reviewed by the state Legislature as part of the budget process.

Under the proposal, Asbury Park would lose $2.4 million, while Keansburg was cut $1.1 million. Both figures represent about 4 percent of the district’s state aid. Monmouth Regional saw a nearly 13 percent cut, with aid dropping by about $500,000.

The picture was mixed for the state’s larger urban districts.

Camden would lose $5.5 million, or about 2 percent of its aid, but Newark fared better, losing only $675,000 from the $714 million it receives from the state. Jersey City saw its aid rise by $1.

In the past, poorer districts with declining enrollment frequently received additional state aid to cushion their residents against property tax increases.

Those dollars in so-called “adjustment aid,” were part of funding decisions that were made as “political giveaways” to mostly urban districts, regardless of their performance or enrollment, Cerf said.

He vowed to further reduce this aid by 50 percent over the next five years for districts that are spending more than the state’s school aid formula says is necessary.

Steve Wollmer, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, said state aid was cut for 24 of the 31 former Abbott districts, among the state’s poorest.

“Yet at the end of the day, some of our poorest districts took deep cuts in their budget,” Wollmer said.

“He’s hurting urban districts yet again,” he said. “They’re still trying to dig out” from cuts in Christie’s first two years.

“There’s a lot of intellectual dishonesty coming from this administration about its commitment to disadvantaged kids,” he said. “They talk a great talk and then they cut their budgets. I just think it’s very hypocritical.”

For years the majority of state education funding has been funneled to poorer districts, often in more urban areas of the state.

But Cerf stressed last week that spending more state money in poorer districts has not closed the “achievement gap.”

“Changing the way the money is spent is by far the most important means of actually changing the behavior of schools and the school systems,” Cerf said.

Aid reductions in 11 of the former Abbott districts were due to lower enrollment and not cuts in per-pupil funding, according to information provided by Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie. Three of every four dollars spent in those districts will still come from state aid, he said.

“More than anyone before him, this governor has been the most forceful advocate for fixing urban education, turning around and giving families options to chronically failing schools and ridding the system of bad teachers with real measures of accountablity,” Drewniak said in an e-mail. “That bothers Wollmer and the rest of the NJEA leadership a great deal because it exists for the sole purpose of holding onto the status quo like grim death.”

Much of the state aid cut for Asbury Park came from a reduction in adjustment aid.

Superintendent Denise Lowe said the district remains in good shape financially in spite of the aid cut because it has more than $4 million in its surplus account.

“We’re in a good financial situation as far as being prudent in budgeting and keeping those surpluses over the past couple of years,” Lowe said.

The district received grant funding and jobs funding that it did not use over the past couple of years, so that money will be used to make up for the state aid cut, she said.

“We are still going to have to be frugal,” Lowe said. “But because of the financial controls we’ve put into place, we’re going to be fine.”

Monmouth Regional Business Administrator Maria Parry attributed the district’s add drop in part to a fall in enrollment caused by the closure of Fort Monmouth. The district is down 30 students from last year, she said.

She said before the district cuts program or staff it will seek to reduce costs and possibly add income to its coffers.

One possible move could include raising rental fees at Monmouth Regional’s performing arts center, Parry said. She said the center is rented by various dance and community theater groups throughout the year.

Monmouth Regional this year already had eliminated funding for field trips to balance its budget, Parry said.

Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said, “I think there was a slight bump-up for the non-Abbott districts. However, it still does not put them where they were a few years ago before the economic meltdown. But we do appreciate the overall increase in aid.”

The association is still assessing the impact on individual districts, he said.

“We do want to look at the impact on the individual districts that have lost state aid,” he said. “Is it a matter of enrollment decline or are there some other factors involved?”

Belluscio said special education received a “much-needed and much-appreciated” increase in aid.

Many of the local districts that saw large increases in state aid are considered “choice schools” under the state’s Interdistrict Public School Choice program. The program allows parents of children who live outside a choice district to send their children to that district free of charge.

Parents must pay for transportation if their child lives more than 20 miles away from the choice school, but they can receive $884 in aid to assist in paying transportation costs.

Star Ledger - Acting N.J. education chief reconsiders using school free-lunch programs to measure poverty

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 10:00 AM  By Jessica Calefati/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger
TRENTON — Tucked into an 80-page report on Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to overhaul distribution of state aid to public schools is a proposal that could have greater implications on school funding than anything else the governor has pitched, experts say.

In New Jersey and across the nation, the number of students living in poverty is determined by how many of them qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, a federal program run by the Department of Agriculture. But the count is not just about the federally subsidized meals — schools with poor students in the lunch program receive up to 57 percent more state aid than their peers.

Citing growing concerns with the program’s susceptibility to fraud and error, acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is calling for a governor-appointed task force to study whether there’s "an alternative way to measure New Jersey’s at-risk student population." The move has the potential to shift where the money goes in the state school system, rekindling New Jersey’s long debate over school funding for needy children.

"It is hardly a well kept secret that (free and reduced lunch counts) are inaccurate and even at times fraudulent," Cerf said in an e-mail to The Star-Ledger Saturday. "We owe it to school districts and taxpayers alike to explore whether there are better ways to identify disadvantaged children."

The report, however, does not stop with a call to re-evaluate how poor students are counted.

Cerf also challenges the long-held assumption that poverty puts students at a disadvantage in the classroom.

His report recommends the state study "whether a poor student should be presumed to be educationally at-risk, or whether there is a more precise way to define at-risk students."

Nine months ago, the state Supreme Court ruled poverty does affect classroom performance.

After Christie cut state aid by nearly $1 billion in 2010, the court last May ordered the governor to give $500 million back to the state’s 31 poorest districts. Schoolchildren in those cities, the court found, have been "victims of a violation of constitutional magnitude for more than twenty years."

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Elizabeth school officials' kids don't pay full meal costs, records show

That violation was a failure by the state "to provide the education funding and services required to ameliorate the class’ constitutional deprivation," Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the latest chapter of the long-standing Abbott vs. Burke school funding case.

The school funding issue aside, the state should be examining fraud in the lunch program, some education experts say, but eliminating it as a measure of poverty goes too far.

"It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got," said Bruce Baker, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education.

A recent analysis by the state auditor estimated that up to 37 percent of participants in the federally administered free and reduced-lunch program are fraudulently enrolled. Cerf cites that finding, along with reports by The Star-Ledger last year that Elizabeth’s school board president and two spouses of district employees allegedly falsified their income so their children could receive meals, as proof of the need for a change.

"There is a perverse incentive to sign up these kids and it’s a big conflict of interest," state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, argued recently. "I think it’s a statewide problem and Elizabeth is just the tip of the iceberg."

Baker said qualification for free and reduced-price lunch is a good indicator of which students deserve additional state and federal aid because it measures students’ backgrounds. Some states use Census data to measure student poverty, but it’s not accurate, Baker said. Others don’t consider poverty at all in school funding.

"Numbers of books in a home or a parent’s education level might be better ways to determine which students are at the greatest risk, but the cost of developing and updating such a complex index would be extremely burdensome," he said. "Is the system so susceptible to fraud that it’s no longer a useful index? No.

"As it stands, free and reduced lunch is highly predictive of student outcomes," Baker added. "Plus, it’s something you can audit, and we should do more of that."

Last year, the National School Lunch Program helped feed 385,000 students statewide, according to data supplied by state officials, providing nutritious free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch to children whose parents meet income-eligibility requirements. A family of four cannot earn more than $29,500 to qualify for a free lunch and not more than $41,348 for a reduced-price meal, according to the federal Agriculture Department.

INCREASES IN ENROLLMENT

An examination of statewide data shows several large school districts — including Elizabeth, Newark and Atlantic City — have reported large increases in the number of children receiving free and reduced lunch over the past five years.

During that time, the number of children receiving free or reduced lunch in Elizabeth increased to 16,214 from 10,366, according to annual average daily lunch data reported to the state Department of Agriculture.

Newark, which provides free and reduced lunch to more than 25,000 kids, saw the percentage of students in the program climb to 66 percent from 53 percent.

Atlantic City reported a nearly 20 percent increase over that time in the number of children receiving subsidized meals, to include 4,481 of its 6,721 students, according to the Agriculture Department numbers.

Some leaders in urban districts with large numbers of poverty-stricken students condemned the notion that free and reduced lunch enrollment should be scrapped as a measure of student need, or that poor students are not deserving of additional funds.

Elizabeth officials recently said their intention is only to maximize eligibility for kids who should receive the benefit of the program, adding that the free or reduced-price lunch they get from the district could be the only decent meal some children receive.

"Given the deteriorating economy over the last few years, unemployment going up, high foreclosure rates and general economic distress, we are not surprised that our rate has increased," said board spokesman Donald Goncalves. "We are aware of the correlation between school aid and participation in this program. We view this effort as akin to maximizing Census participation."

Ras Baraka, a Newark city councilman and principal of the city’s Central High School, works with students who confront hunger, death and lack of stability in their homes day in and day out.

"We can’t teach people and pretend that they’re not poor," he said. "We can’t teach people and pretend that they have not eaten, or teach people and pretend that their brother was not just murdered."

Staff writers Ted Sherman and David Giambusso contributed to this report.

Asbury Park Press - Funding formula still inadequate … “…For far too long, suburban schools in New Jersey have gotten short shrift in the yearly lottery known as the state school aid allotments. The Christie administration is looking to change that. The Legislature should welcome the changes.”

7:49 PM, Feb. 24,2012 | OpinionEditorials

For far too long,suburban schools in New Jersey have gotten short shrift in the yearly lotteryknown as the state school aid allotments. The Christie administration islooking to change that. The Legislature should welcome the changes.

State school aidfigures unveiled Thursday showed that Gov. Chris Christie plans to take moneyaway from urban and low-income school districts and provide additional funds to suburban areas.

 

On average, stateaid will increase 2.1 percent, or $121 per pupil. Suburban communities, for themost part, will fare much better.

In MonmouthCounty, 31 of its 53 districts will see increases of more than 5 percent; 20will receive double-digit increases. In Ocean County, just seven of 28districts are in line for increases of 5 percent or more.

Why the disparitybetween the two counties? Here is the response from Justin Barra, spokesmanfrom the state Department of Education: “When you take all the disparatefactors involved in the funding formula, it’s hard to assign causality to anyone factor.” Ocean County school officials should press for a better answer.

Clearly,inequities remain a major issue. But the aid formula changes do, at least,appear to address two of the major sources of those inequities: the awarding ofso-called “adjustment aid” and the manner in which school enrollment ismeasured. Enrollment is a huge factor in determining the amount of aid schoolsreceive.

Adjustment aid wasdesigned to ensure that no district lost too much aid in the face of decliningenrollment. But it has become a kind of entitlement. Acting EducationCommissioner Christopher Cerf said the administration plans to phase it outover five years: “It is Another changeinvolves the state moving from a “single day” count to determine enrollment toan average daily attendance model. Districts know in advance the day when thestate counts heads, and Cerf said some districts entice students to show upwith promises of pizza parties and the like.

Both aid formulachanges will likely elicit cries of “Foul!” from some quarters. Asbury Parkstands to receive $2.4 million less than last year. Camden would lose $5.5million. That’s hardly draconian. Camden still would get $276 million in stateaid and Asbury Park $55.2 million.

There comes a pointat which declining enrollment in districts should not be rewarded with statesubsidies. You can gold-plate the school cafeteria, but if there is no onethere to eat the blue-plate specials, it is an intolerable waste of money.

“Fair is fair,” weteach our children. It’s time for the state to start funding schools in keepingwith that lesson.

The Record - As suburban schools weigh use of new aid, city districts worry cuts may spur layoffs

Friday February24, 2012, 11:51 Pm  By Leslie Brody Staff Writer

In Ramsey, educators want to give iPads to all eighth-gradersnext fall.

New Milford could expand its high school “academies” forglobal leadership, science and the arts.

And Glen Rock could pay for two disabled students who, it appears,will soon need expensive placements outside the district.

These are among the ways North Jersey superintendentssaid Friday that they aim to use increases in state aid they hope to get forthe coming school year.

The picture was bleaker in struggling cities, whereproposed aid was shaved slightly from this year. In Paterson, forexample, a school board member predicted an $863,000 loss might lead to furtherstaff cuts in a city roiled by hundreds of layoffs in recent years.

Under a plan announced Thursday by GovernorChristie, Bergen County public schools overall would see state aid riseby 9 percent next year over the current year, with some small districts seeingjumps topping 30 percent. But suburban district chiefs were quick to point outthat even with these increases, they were not getting as much as they werepromised for the 2009-10 school year, before Christie took office.

His administration also spelled out a plan Thursday togrow total state aid yearly for five years. Citing the fiscal crisis, Christiehas repeatedly shortchanged the school’s complex funding formula, sparkinglitigation that he lost last spring. His new proposal calls for a record $7.8billion in so-called formula aid, and moving toward fully paying for theformula in five years. He has also pushed for changing the formula by trimmingthe extra aid sent to districts to support each at-risk child —one of severalideas that have ignited protests from advocates for poor students.

New Jersey has been wrenched in legal battles over how topay for decent educations for disadvantaged children for 40 years, and morefierce debate is looming. This heated issue affects every taxpayer in NewJersey, because the lion’s share of state school aid goes to bolster schoolbudgets in high-poverty cities that can’t shoulder the costs of providingadequate instruction on their own. Even under Christie’s proposal, state aid inthe coming year would average $15,415 per pupil in the 31 cities at the heart ofthe funding litigation, and $3,223 per pupil elsewhere.

David Sciarra, the Education Law Center attorney who hasoften fought these cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, disputed thestate’s claim that it would fully finance the 2008 funding law. Sciarra saidChristie would weaken the formula by decreasing the extra dollars calculatedfor every at-risk child.

Christie also wants to change the way enrollment iscounted. Now students are tallied every year on Oct. 15. The governor wants tomove to distributing aid by average daily attendance, to give schools moreincentive to fight truancy. But Sciarra said that measure was unfair to cityschools where students may be absent because of problems with health,transportation and other issues outside the schools’ control.

“We’ve been in discussions with the Legislature, tryingto give them the information they need to know how these changes wouldundermine adequate funding through the formula and why they should opposethem,” Sciarra said.

Ray Montesano, superintendent in Ramsey, said thethought of possible litigation was unnerving, because schools neededpredictable aid streams to shape spending. “If this [aid plan] gets challenged,what will that really mean for us and other suburban districts?” he asked.“Will it hold things up? We need to know our numbers so we can move forward.”

In Paterson, board member Jonathan Hodges worried the proposedaid figure was more painful that it appeared because of rising costs for energyand health benefits. “Flat funding is underfunding,” he said. “It’s nowherenear what we need to keep pace. It will mean a cut in educational services, yetto be determined … probably some teaching personnel.”

The city did get a windfall, however, from a new pot of$38 million in federal grants from a third round of so-called Race to the Topmoney. The state announced Friday that 372 districts and charter schools hadsigned up to share part of that pot, with a promise to use it for developingassessments, teacher evaluations and other options fitting the administration’sagenda. Patersonwill get $1.2 million, and Passaic almost $600,000.

Eleven other Passaic Countydistricts are getting much smaller slices of those funds, along with 15 in Bergen County.

Christie’s proposed aid increases, and hisrecommendations for aid calculation changes, must be negotiated with theLegislature by July 1 as part of the $32.1 billion state budget plan.

Staff Writer Patricia Alex contributed to this article.

Email: brody@northjersey.com

______________________________________

Star Ledger - Scores of N.J. school districts moving elections from April to November…”… Strickland’s greatest concern was a provision in the law that allowed local governing bodies to move elections even without the consent of school boards…[yet] school boards are responsible and want to do the best for their kids," Strickland said. "I think they are very hopeful that, without having separate April elections, they can get a budget done appropriately but stay focused on the education of their students throughout the school year.

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 8:30 AM

By Dan Goldberg/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger

More than 400 school districts have moved their elections from April to November — one of the most sweeping changes to scholastic politics in state history as most residents will no longer vote on their districts’ budgets.

Not that many residents have taken advantage of the opportunity to vote on school budgets. Since 1984, there has been only one year in which more than 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots. That was 2010, when Gov. Chris Christie lobbied voters to reject their districts’ budgets in protest of ever-rising property taxes.

By contrast, 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the general election this past in November, and that was the lowest ever recorded. This year, because of the presidential race, the turnout is expected to be significantly higher.

Those kinds of numbers are one reason lawmakers pushed to pass legislation that would allow districts to change their school election dates. The move also is expected to save several millions of dollars statewide in election costs.

"In a time when municipalities are forced to do more with less, this law is a practical way to save taxpayer money and get more people involved in the selection of school board members who will be making decisions on the education of our children," said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), one of several legislators who sponsored the bill.

The savings are not a game-changer — the nonpartisan state Office of Legislative Services estimates the average district will save 0.08 percent of its budget — but should still provide a little wiggle room as administrators put together spending plans that fall within the 2 percent tax cap.

The law, which Christie signed Jan. 17, allows for two ways to move the election. The first is through a ballot referendum, and the second is through a resolution passed by either the local governing body or school board.

Once the election is moved to November, it must remain there for at least four years. School board members elected in November are sworn in after the New Year — the same as local politicians.

COMPLETE LIST OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS MOVING THEIR BOARD ELECTIONS

Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence is districts that switch their elections to November are no longer compelled to put their budgets before voters for approval, provided they stay within the 2 percent tax levy cap. Any requests for spending above the cap would be presented to the voters in November.

"I urge school board members and voters in every one of our districts to act as quickly as possible to take hold of these benefits," Christie said when signing the bill.

Apparently they did.

In fewer than four weeks, 410 of the state’s approximately 600 districts followed Christie’s advice. That didn’t surprise Greenwald.

"It does everything voters and constituents are asking for," he said. "It is common sense."

The move is popular among school boards, administrators and superintendents weary of working months on a budget only to have their work undone by a handful of the district’s voters — some of whom are against any increase in spending no matter the size or reason.

That puts administrators in the unenviable position of spending months selling their budget instead of focusing on education, said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.

"Most school boards are responsible and want to do the best for their kids," Strickland said. "I think they are very hopeful that, without having separate April elections, they can get a budget done appropriately but stay focused on the education of their students throughout the school year. I say overwhelmingly this will be a good thing."

RELATED COVERAGE:


Somerville school board moves elections to November

Moving N.J. school board elections to November: Pros and cons

Editorial: Option of moving N.J. school board elections to the fall a win-win

Bergen County municipalities split on moving school board elections to November

Strickland’s greatest concern was a provision in the law that allowed local governing bodies to move elections even without the consent of school boards. A scene like that nearly played out in Bloomfield last week. With one member absent, the rest of the school board voted unanimously last month to stay with April mainly due to budget concerns, said board President Mary Shaughnessy. But weeks later the issue appeared on the township council’s agenda.

"Their vote would trump ours," Shaughnessy said. "We lobbied very hard to change their minds."

Last Tuesday, the council defeated the resolution. Bloomfield school elections will remain in April.

Bridgewater-Raritan voted 5-3 this month to move the regional school district’s election to November after a contentious debate that summed up many of the arguments for and against. Board members Jill Gladstone, Cindy Cullen and Patrick Breslin were concerned about politicizing the school board and preventing taxpayers from voting on the budget.

"Politicization will bring more grief than any of us is supposing," Breslin said at the board meeting, according to the Messenger-Gazette of Somerset County. "We were not elected to take away someone else’s vote. I won’t do it."

Gladstone suggested the board wait to see how other districts cope with the change before moving ahead.

But board member Daniel Petrozelli said the district suffers whenever a budget fails at the polls, and he didn’t want to risk that.

Similar debates played out across the state. Hillsborough board members preferred to err on the side of caution and study the impact on other districts, said Aiman Mahmoud, the district’s business administrator.

But of equal concern to the board, which voted 8-1 to keep elections in April, was the issue of residents losing the ability to vote on the budget.

The same concern was heard in the West Essex Regional School District, which serves roughly 1,600 middle and high schoolers from Roseland, Fairfield, North Caldwell and Essex Fells.

"As a taxpayer, I would want that vote," board member Dawn Smith said at a school board meeting. "Plus I think it will get muddled in the politicalness … as much as they say it’ll be separate, it’ll get political."

Ultimately, the regional district voted in favor of moving its elections — though it was technically not required to do so because all four sending districts had already made the switch.

The concern that nonpartisan school board candidates could be swept away amid the tides of party politics was voiced in several districts — even those that voted in favor of the change.

"In general these candidates are not political; they are focused on education," Strickland said, "but if you are going to run in November, it might be more expensive to get your message out because there are so many more people running, and also other (ballot) questions.

Staff writers Eugene Paik and Eunice Lee and the Somerset Messenger-Gazette contributed to this report.

 

Star Ledger - About half of N.J. school districts implement Christie reforms for chunk of federal grant … “About half of the state’s school districts have agreed to implement some of the Christie Administration’s education reforms in exchange for a slice of a $38million federal grant…”

Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 6:22 PMUpdated: Friday,February 24, 2012, 6:33 PM

By Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger

About half of the state’s school districts have agreed to implement some of the Christie Administration’s education reforms in exchange for a slice of a $38million federal grant.

In total, 344 of about 700 districts and charter schoolshave signed up to participate. The largest districts will receive up to $2million from the grant, known as Race to the Top, while some smaller districtswill get tens of thousands of dollars.

All districts receiving funds will have the same charge —to develop model curriculum and assessments, to develop an online tool so thatteachers statewide can access the curriculum, to implement the state’s newteacher evaluation system and to help strengthen the state’s charter schoolauthorizing practices.

"We are glad to see that so many districts andcharter schools have signed up to participate in the state’s reformagenda," said acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. "These fundscan be used for a number of purposes that will support student learning."

Newark will receive $2 million, TEAM Academy CharterSchool in Newark will receive $111,000, and Union Township will receive$66,000. Meanwhile, tiny Milford Borough in Hunterdon County will get a meager$499.

To qualify for these funds, districts must receive somefederal Title I money, a funding source used to educate poor students. Nearly30 additional districts that do not qualify also indicated they plan to adoptthe Christie Administration’s reforms voluntarily.

New Jersey was one of seven states to receive funding inthe latest round of Race to the Top, a federal competition pitting stateagainst state in a fight for hundreds of millions in one-time funding.

 

 


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