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5-21-12 Education and Related Issues in the News
Press of Atlantic City - Schools get regulations on how to put ads on buses, raise revenue…Regulations released by the state Board of Education could mean ads start appearing on the sides of buses

Philadelphia Inquirer - Alternative-school links grow on Camden board

NJ Spotlight - Tensions Rise Over Paterson’s Plans for Schools…Lack of local control rekindles debate as state makes new proposals to turn ailing schools around

Star Ledger Editorial - Winning deal for Rutgers University, Rowan

Press of Atlantic City - Schools get regulations on how to put ads on buses, raise revenueschool bus safetyRegulations released by the state Board of Education could mean ads start appearing on the sides of buses

More than a year after Gov. Chris Christie signed a law allowing school bus ads, the state Board of Education has approved regulations on how to place them.

Ads could now save the jobs of aides who ride school buses in the Middle Township school district.

“I did bring it up with our transportation committee,” school Superintendent Michael Kopakowski said Thursday. “But we were waiting for the regulations to come out.”

The township is looking for ways to compensate for tuition losses due to shrinking enrollment from its sending districts.

The state board approved the regulations May 2. They will go into effect upon publication in the New Jersey Register, which should be June 4, Department of Education spokeswoman Allison Kobus said Thursday.

But questions remain about how the ad regulations will be enforced by the state Motor Vehicle Commission, which inspects school buses. Current MVC rules would prohibit signs on school buses.

Regulations limit ads to the sides of the bus and prohibit ads that promote gambling, tobacco, alcohol or are connected to sexual activities. Ads also may not glamorize violent or antisocial behavior or be political or religious in nature. Local school boards must approve every ad and must file an annual report with the commissioner of education.

Ads are limited to buses owned or leased by a school district. Private bus companies that contract with school districts are ineligible. But Tim Wallace, president of the New Jersey School Bus Operators Association, which opposed the law for safety reasons, said he has already seen ads on private buses, and he questions how the state will be able to enforce the new regulations.

“Before, ads were prohibited on school buses and if you reported it, the Motor Vehicle Commission could tell them to take it down,” Wallace said.

He said now that if some buses can have them and others can’t, it’s going to be harder to identify those that might be breaking the law.

“If they have a removable ad, they can just take it down (for the inspection) then put it back up,” he said.

MVC spokeswoman Elyse Coffey said Wednesday that the agency has not yet reviewed the Department of Education regulations, so she can’t say how they might affect required school-bus inspections. The MVC inspects school buses twice a year, using an itemized checklist, and can also do surprise inspections.

Christie signed the law allowing the ads in January 2011. School districts were struggling with reduced state aid, and more taxpayers were unwilling to support property-tax increases. The law was seen as a way to let districts generate additional revenue.

Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said he opposes ads on school buses because they imply endorsement by the district. He also sees legal loopholes that could create problems.

“Schools are supposed to be promoting healthy eating, but there is nothing that prohibits ads for soda or fast food,” Golin said. “And if the district turns that down, could there be a legal challenge?”

Currently, nine states have laws allowing ads on buses, including Texas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, New Mexico and Arizona, according to the campaign’s website. Six more states have bills introduced, but not passed, and two more states have bills under consideration. A few states allow ads on the inside of buses but not on the outside.

Golin said surveys of states that allow ads show that bus ads typically generate about $400 to $500 per bus annually. New Jersey law requires that half the revenue be used to help cover fuel costs, and the rest go to any school program or service.

Kopakowski said he doesn’t view school bus ads as being any different from ads already placed in the high school football stadium. He said they come from local businesses and are as much a show of support for the school and community as they are ads for the businesses. He said he would expect the cost of bus ads to be in line with Golin’s estimates.

“We get a lot of community support, but you have to keep it affordable for the businesses,” he said. The district has about 50 buses, so $500 per bus could raise $25,000, enough to save a few part-time aide positions.

School officials in other districts said they haven’t brought the issue up yet but would review the regulations and discuss the pros and cons as they consider ways to control property taxes. Local districts with their own bus fleets include Egg Harbor Township, Vineland and Hammonton.

“Be sure that the people of Hammonton are always interested in having additional sources of income,” Hammonton Superintendent C. Dan Blachford said.

Contact Diane D’Amico: 609-272-7241 DDamico@pressofac.com

 

 

Philadelphia Inquirer - Alternative-school links grow on Camden board

May 20, 2012|By Claudia Vargas, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Milagros Torres joined a chorus of parents advocating for alternatives to public schools in Camden after her 9-year-old daughter was attacked in March by bullies in a Thomas H. Dudley Elementary School bathroom.

Moneke Ragsdale, however, says it was the Lanning Square School, a traditional, public elementary school, that made sure her son Eric Lee wouldn’t fall behind. Lee, now 19, went on to graduate with honors from Camden High School, just finished his first year at Camden County College, and hopes to go on to medical school.

The Camden City School Board — including two new members sworn in Wednesday and immediately confronted with the task of replacing departing Superintendent Bessie LaFra Young — will have to navigate this kind of divide among parents as it weighs how to improve the learning environment for children in a city beset by poverty, crime, and struggling public schools.

Several so-called Renaissance schools, an alternative to traditional public schools akin to charters, are seeking approval, and their prospects likely improved substantially since at least four of the nine board members have links to alternative schools.

“Charters are coming, and charters will be part of our district. ... We need more collaboration” between charters and the district, said board member Kathryn Ribay, a science teacher at Collingswood High School, who was appointed to the board a year ago. Ribay served on the ad hoc committee to prepare the district’s request for proposals for Renaissance schools that was posted Friday.

Ribay’s husband, Randy Ribay, is a teacher at Boys Latin Charter School in Philadelphia and a founding board member of City Invincible Charter School, scheduled to open in September in Camden.

Several other board members also have connections to either charter schools or Renaissance schools.

Brian E. Turner, a city lawyer who grew up in Camden and graduated from Moorestown Friends School, was on the founding board of Charter School for Global Leadership, which is tentatively scheduled to open in September in Camden. Turner said he resigned from the charter board Wednesday before being sworn in to the city school board.

Board member Felicia Reyes-Morton is a 2006 graduate of Camden Academy Charter School. “They are more of a college preparatory school,” she said, expressing her admiration for charters.

 

NJ Spotlight - Tensions Rise Over Paterson’s Plans for Schools…Lack of local control rekindles debate as state makes new proposals to turn ailing schools around

By John Mooney, May 21, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

Another state-operated school district, another broiling debate over the Christie administration’s reform plans.

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This time, it was in Paterson where deep divisions have surfaced over the administration’s mix of proposals, from changes in educational practices to the closing and reconfiguring of a half-dozen schools.

The Paterson advisory board on Thursday narrowly approved the package put forward by state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans.

But similar to Newark’s ongoing reorganization that has touched off fiery community meetings, more than 50 people opposed to the plans in Paterson gathered this weekend to begin strategizing how they would stage their fight.

“These are our children, and we intend to fight for them and resist what they are trying to do,” said Jonathan Hodges, a longtime member of the advisory board who voted against the proposals.

The Saturday morning meeting held at Paterson’s International High School lacked the rancor of the Newark meetings, but Hodges and others said they would make it up with persistence and urged attendees to take their concerns to local, state and even federal officials.

Also attending were leaders of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers union; and the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy group.

The Paterson plans are not as sweeping as in Newark, where new superintendent Cami Anderson has sought to close or reconfigure more than a dozen schools, including shared space with charter schools.

In Paterson, Evans’ plans call more for closing and reopening as many as eight schools in different grade configurations, as well as educational changes. One is ending of “social promotion,” the practice of moving students to the next grade, even when they may not have reached achievement benchmarks.

Not all the proposals were criticized on Saturday, with some in the audience saying the district needed to raise its own expectations for both students and teachers.

But the tone was more about the ongoing tension of the state making these decisions, a tension that has festered ever since the state’s takeover 20 years ago.

A centerpiece of the administration’s plans throughout the state is the creation of seven new “regional achievement centers” that will serve as the hub of turnaround efforts for schools with low student achievement overall or wide gaps in achievement levels.

These RACs will provide assistance and support in the districts, some more collegial than others, depending on the needs. Evaluations of the schools are underway this spring, and state officials stress that remedies will be developed with the districts.

But other moves are less bending, such as one provision that states principals of low performing schools who have been there more than two years will likely be replaced.

The RACs are yet to be staffed, but the state has released an outline to how they would be spread across the state, each covering between five and 72 different schools. One center will cover both Bergen and Passaic counties, including Paterson, and work with 45 schools overall.

They will include both instructional experts, but also specialists in data, “culture and climate,” and “human capital.”

“So the state will pay to have a third party come in and improve our culture and climate,” said Rosie Grant of the Paterson Education Fund.

“These are the people who will decide how to turn around our schools,” she said. “You can forget about local control.”

 

Star Ledger Editorial - Winning deal for Rutgers University, Rowan

Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012, 6:43 AM

By Star-Ledger Editorial BoardThe Star-Ledger

After months of wailing and teeth-gnashing, the architects of New Jersey’s higher ed reorganization are close to a deal that strengthens the state’s education and institutions.

The framework of compromise — still being negotiated behind closed doors — closely resembles Gov. Chris Christie’s original proposal. Yet, rather than allowing Rowan University to absorb Rutgers-Camden, it preserves and strengthens the Rutgers brand in South Jersey.

The basic outline has Rutgers University taking over the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s medical school, cancer institute and school of public health in New Brunswick, while Rutgers-Camden and Rowan join forces in the south. Nothing is final, but insiders say it’s the one most likely to greet lawmakers in the coming weeks. It’s the best solution because it solves the Camden issue.

Christie’s original plan — backed by South Jersey political boss George Norcross and Senate President Stephen Sweeney — called for Rowan to take over Rutgers-Camden. Their hope was that Rowan, potentially boasting a medical school and law school, would grow in reputation, bringing the city of Camden along for the ride.

That plan infuriated the Rutgers-Camden community, which argued a merger would strip the Rutgers brand from South Jersey and cause irreparable harm. Faculty and students would flee. The hoped-for Super Rowan? A pipe dream.

Today, the new compromise calls for a more independent Rutgers-Camden, with academics controlled by Rutgers, while day-to-day operations and growth fall under a joint Rutgers-Rowan panel.

It’s a deal that keeps money and decision-making in South Jersey, preserving the Rutgers brand while building Rowan’s, and providing growth potential that South Jersey leaders wanted all along.

At the same time, it creates a powerhouse medical school for Rutgers, with research capability to compete with the nation’s top institutions. In Newark, it gives UMDNJ a fresh start, placing University Hospital under a public-private partnership.

Rutgers University, Rutgers-Camden and Rowan all are strengthened. The plan also builds momentum toward November’s long-overdue bond issue — about $3 billion — for all of the state’s colleges.

Of course, the devil will be in a million details over how to govern and pay for the new setup — budgets, union contracts and, a big one, oversight of the joint Rutgers-Rowan, which critics fear will become a Norcross patronage pit. Not to mention opposition from Rutgers’ trustees.

Cost questions linger, too. Estimates place the upfront cost of statewide reorganization between $250 million and $350 million — the total to refinance the debt of Rutgers and UMDNJ, plus change-of-ownership costs. To accomplish this reorganization, it’s an acceptable ballpark figure.

But all bets are off if those numbers rise significantly or the South Jersey portion reverts to a Rowan takeover of Rutgers-Camden. Pie-in-the-sky assumptions about a Super Rowan are enticing but unlikely. Hope that Rowan can compete with the gold-standard brands of U.S. medical research — Harvard, Penn, Johns Hopkins — is too great a gamble for the price.

New Jersey higher education is in crisis. Investment in public universities is vital, so kids from middle- and low-income families have an affordable path to quality colleges.

Good research universities are magnets for high-tech jobs. They can stop the “brain drain” that sees families spend $1 billion every year to send 28,000 students to out-of-state colleges.

Would all this have been so hard had the governor not muddied it from the start? He hatched the plan in secret, then tried to force-feed it to higher ed leaders and lawmakers without laying out the basics — most important, an official cost estimate. Christie’s plan wasn’t the problem, but his tactics complicated the already mixed marriage of politics and academics.

New Jersey’s higher ed status quo is no longer good enough. Preservation of the Rutgers brand in South Jersey answers nearly all critics and allows the Camden campus, as well as the host city, to prosper. The price is breathtaking, but worth it to create two new, stronger academic centers in New Jersey higher ed.


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