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4-25-12 Education and Related Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - The New Math: Counting NJ’s School Children…Education advocates say the way Christie plans to add the numbers will hurt poor urban districts

Politickernj - Christie names members to Anti-Bullying Task Force

Asbury Park Press - Gov. Bobby Jindal to attend school summit in New Jersey

Politickernj - Realtors survey shows strong support for Christie's, Assembly Democrats' tax cut plans… “The real takeaway is that 60 percent are looking for some kind of tax relief”

Star Ledger - Newest Kids Count report finds evidence of 'persistent and pervasive' poverty in N.J.

NJ Spotlight - The New Math: Counting NJ’s School Children…Education advocates say the way Christie plans to add the numbers will hurt poor urban districts

By John Mooney, April 25, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment


New Jersey’s school funding formula is based on the premise that the state’s money follows the child, give or take a few big conditions.

But now one of the latest debates in Trenton is how the state is going to be counting how many children there are in the first place.

As part of his proposed 2012 budget, Gov. Chris Christie has proposed scrapping the state’s longtime practice of basing the annual enrollment count in every district on the number of children enrolled on Oct. 15 of a given year.

Instead, the Christie administration proposed moving to a system of basing the count off a school’s “average daily attendance” over the last three years, or roughly the number of students in the building on a typical day.

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The administration has hedged since then and said it will consider other methods going forward. But the notion of changing the count has stirred concerns among some school advocates, as well as Democratic lawmakers, who contend it will reduce funding to districts where attendance can be more problematic, namely lower income urban districts.

It’s an issue that has played out in other states as well, with some illustrative lessons.

The topic came up at the Assembly budget committee hearing on the Christie school funding plan on Monday, where the committee’s chairman raised it in his opening round of questions to acting education commissioner Chris Cerf.

Cerf said the program is needed to provide an incentive to districts to bring students back into schools where he said there could be chronic absenteeism. He cited state statistics that show attendance rates in some districts below 90 percent.

“That’s a lot of children,” Cerf said, adding that millions of hours of instructional time are potentially lost.

But the chairman, state Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), questioned whether cutting funds was the answer. “Can you say that taking money away from those children is helping them?” Prieto asked.

According to the legislature’s own staff analysis, it could be more than just urban districts. A report by the Office of Legislative Services said three quarters of all districts would see their counts reduced under the administration’s plans.

Still, in terms of state aid, it would hit lower income districts the hardest, the OLS report said, especially those districts that fall under the Abbott v. Burke school funding rulings, including Newark, Paterson and Camden. For them, it could be more than $100 million in aid reductions.

Some have come to the administration’s defense. Cerf this week visited Fort Lee schools to trumpet the school funding plan, and its superintendent said his district would only benefit from a truer count of its students.

Half of all Fort Lee students are from Korean families, with many coming and going with changing jobs. Superintendent Steven Engravalle said his enrollment can rise as much as 100 students from beginning to end.

“We may get students enrolling for three or four months of the year,” he said. “What I’m looking for is what I can have for the kids I will have in June.”

But critics contend this is just another step by Christie to pull back funding for urban districts, especially those falling under Abbott. Bruce Baker, a Rutgers education professor who is a frequent critic of the administration’s school funding plans, called the attendance rate change an “immediate red flag” on Christie’s intentions.

He said the single day count allows schools to better predict their needs and budget for them. “I see the point for a midyear correction, but I also recognize that district budgeting is an annual process,” he said.

Other states’ practices give a varied picture to how the issue has been addressed across the country.

New Jersey is just one of 10 states that use a single-day count, a dwindling list in the last few years. The most popular remains the “average daily membership,” a method that looks at the enrollment -- and not necessarily attendance -- at multiple points in the year.

But average daily attendance (ADA) counts have gained favor, although still just seven states have adopted the method so far, including New York, California and Texas.

”We are seeing more states move to ADA,” said Michael Griffith, a policy analysts with the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based clearinghouse. “The general idea is it is more fair and counts for the students you are actually teaching.”

But he said it has not been without its controversy, and he agreed there is little doubt that it harms districts with declining enrollments and more difficult attendance records. He also questioned if it leads to better attendance, saying there is no research to that claim.

Such debate has surfaced in Griffith’s own state, where a Colorado citizens group has campaigned to move off a single-day count but yet to succeed. And the reasons weren’t just over who would be harmed or helped, he said.

“There was a feeling that our data systems just weren’t robust enough for an average attendance count,” Griffith said.

Still, he expects the topic to be revisited in Colorado and other states. “However you do it, you will always have the winners and losers and why you will always get push back,” he said.

Politickernj - Christie names members to Anti-Bullying Task Force    By Matthew Arco | April 24th, 2012 - 4:56pm

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie announced his appointments to the state’s Anti-Bullying Task Force Tuesday.

The governor’s four appointments are Rutgers University’s Bullying Prevention Institute Director Bradford Lerman; Bancroft President and CEO Toni Pergolin; East Hanover Township Public Schools Superintendent Joseph Ricca; and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Patricia Wright.

The seven-member task force is expected to assist officials with the implementation of New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which is part of the state’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying law which recently went into effect.

The appointments do not require Senate confirmation and members will serve without compensation, according to the governor’s office.

Remaining members of the task force are appointed by the Senate president and the Speaker of the General Assembly.


Politickernj - Realtors survey shows strong support for Christie's, Assembly Democrats' tax cut plans… “The real takeaway is that 60 percent are looking for some kind of tax relief”

By Minhaj Hassan | April 24th, 2012 - 2:51pm

TRENTON - A poll conducted by the New Jersey Association of Realtors found strong support for Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed 10 percent income tax cut plan – and the Assembly Democrats’ proposed plan to decrease property taxes by 20 percent.

NJAR surveyed 800 random voters in what it described as a non-partisan poll.

The survey showed that if voters had to select one of the tax cut plans, 40 percent of respondents favor Christie’s plan, and 36 percent favor the Assembly Democrats’ plan, which would provide the property tax cut by putting in place a surtax on high-income households.

Just 18 percent of respondents favor the plan by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford, which calls for an income tax credit that is equivalent to 10 percent of a household's property taxes. The plan would only apply to residents earning less than $250,000.

Support for Christie's and the Democrats’ plans goes down though when the opposition’s talking points are used.

For example, support for Christie’s plan shrinks to 45 percent when someone is convinced it’s a giveaway to wealthy residents at the expense of middle-class folks.

As for the Democrats’ plan, 60 percent are less likely to support either plan when told they would not be able to claim a property tax deduction on their income taxes.

Joe Goode of American Strategies Inc., which conducted the survey for NJAR, said the poll shows residents are anxious for a plan that will help reduce their financial burdens.

“The real takeaway is that 60 percent are looking for some kind of tax relief,” Goode said in a conference call Tuesday.

Christie has been open to Sweeney's tax cut proposal, but has called the Assembly Democrats' plan dead on arrival.

When asked which plan is the best, Jarrod Grasso, chief exectuve officer of NJAR, said from the association's perspective, any of the tax relief plans would be helpful for residents.

Star Ledger - Newest Kids Count report finds evidence of 'persistent and pervasive' poverty in N.J.

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 6:30 AM  By Susan K. Livio/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger

TRENTON — Mario Vargas says he’s identified a "new group" among the thousands of families who come to the Puerto Rican Action Board in New Brunswick in need of low-cost child care, preschool, housing and other services.

It’s made up of working people who always found a way to pay the bills — before the Great Recession arrived.

Now, the 40-year-old social services agency is meeting a growing demand for mortgage and foreclosure counseling, food, and help paying the utility bills.

"They are the dual-income earners, then one of them lost a job or maybe both," said Vargas, the agency’s executive director. "People who never had come out for help — people who are employed — I see every day coming through the door."

As with every new group falling behind, the impact is especially hard on the kids.

Evidence of this "persistent and pervasive" poverty dominated the findings of the latest Kids Count report, a portrait of the health, safety, and economic stability of New Jersey’s 2 million children culled from public records. Nearly one in three children in 2010 lived in a home that could not meet their basic needs without assistance, a 14 percent increase since 2006, according to the report.

"They are families from our cities, our suburbs and our rural areas," said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which issues the annual report. "They are young adults who can’t find a job. They are U.S. born children living in immigrant families. And increasingly they are parents who have always worked but cannot find a full-time job with benefits."

The number of children depending on food stamps, renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, soared from 208,790 in 2007 to 368,173 last year — a 76 percent jump, according to the report. Children poor enough to qualify for free meals at school climbed 26 percent from 2007, to 372,605 students.

The Advocates group paired its Kids Count report with an analysis of state spending over the last three years, noting that the state spends $42 million less on subsidized child care services and $3 million less on the school breakfast program.

Vargas said the cuts to after school and summer care has dramatically reduced the number of kids enrolled by their parents. The state requires parents to present multiple examples of pay stubs and income verification, which is a tall order when they work seasonally or off the books, he said. Only 165 children are enrolled in the summer program, compared to 585 two years ago.

"The rest will go to unregulated child care that is not licensed or scrutinized by anybody," Vargas said.

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget reinstates the cuts he made when he first took office to the Earned Income Tax Credit, a popular anti-poverty program, as part of a general theme that New Jersey’s economy is making a comeback. But family advocates said Tuesday the report defines what struggling families need to regain their independence.

"New Jersey’s recovery plan must place a priority on poor children and their families," said David J. Harris, executive director of the Greater New Brunswick Day Care Council, which serves nearly 600 children.

The report defined families as low-income if they earned no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $44,100 for a family of four. In New Jersey, 30 percent of families met this definition in 2010. Nationwide, 44 percent of families were poor.

Some of the economic stress is linked to family size and structure. Nearly 330,000 or 30 percent of New Jersey’s children in 2010 were raised in a one-parent home, and 51,189 were raised by grandparents, according to the report.

The report may be found at www.acnj.org.

Asbury Park Press - Gov. Bobby Jindal to attend school summit in New Jersey

6:55 AM, Apr. 24, 2012 |


BATON ROUGE, LA. — Gov. Bobby Jindal will travel to New Jersey next week to speak to a pro-voucher group, only two weeks after the Louisiana governor signed a bill that creates a statewide voucher program that will use tax dollars to send children to private schools.

The American Federation for Children said Monday that Jindal is participating in its 2012 national policy meeting, which is set for May 3 and 4.

Louisiana’s Republican governor will be on a speaker list that also includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The statewide voucher program will begin with the 2012-13 school year, available to low- and moderate-income families whose children attend public schools graded with a C, D or F in the state accountability system. Priority will be given to students from D and F schools.


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