|7-21-11 Education Issues in the News|
Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the famed Harlem Children's Zone, is no stranger to New Jersey -- or to Gov. Chris Christie. Yesterday in Paterson, the two stood together for a third time since Christie's election to talk about replicating the New York City program on this side of the river.
The two were at a downtown nonprofit to announce a partnership between Canada's organization and the state. The goal is to create a model of school-community collaboration, one in which a whole spectrum of social services -- from parent workshops to health clinics -- is available through or closely tied to a school.
The event was heavy on speeches and Canada's star power -- he was the lead in the pro-charter film Waiting for Superman and equally light on details. Even project planning looks a few months away, and as yet there's no commitment as to public funds
In fact, the concept of school-community partnerships, sometimes called community schools, is not new to New Jersey--or to Paterson.
The Paterson school district is already in the early stages of a separate community-school initiative involving three schools. And Newark has a high-profile project involving a half-dozen schools in one of its toughest neighborhoods.
No Quick Fixes
Still, community-school projects have proven neither quick nor inexpensive fixes to struggling school systems, as Canada's experience demonstrates.
Launched more than 20 years ago, the Harlem Children's Zone spans 100 blocks and encompasses seven public schools and two charters, as well as preschools, after-school facilities, health services and other programs. Canada stresses that partnerships with existing services and schools are just as important as creating new schools and programs.
"We get written about because we have charter schools," Canada said. "But folks don’t understand that we work with all public schools. Of the 600 kids we have in college, all of them are from the traditional public schools [inside his network].”
Meanwhile, the two charters associated with the Harlem Children's Zone have shown only mediocre student achievement thus far, according to New York City’s .
Canada appeared very much the center of attention yesterday, his national stature a political boost to the controversial governor. At one point, Christie deflected yet another question about his own national ambitions with a semi-serious endorsement of Canada for the Republican presidential nomination.
Like the Harlem Children's Zone, the Paterson project -- called Promise Communities -- looks to be more about collaboration and coordination of existing services than the creation of new ones.
The project's premise is that schools in high-poverty cities like Paterson can only benefit from improved job training, counseling and other public services for families and the larger community.
"Struggling schools happen in struggling communities,” said Rochelle Hendricks, the state’s higher education secretary, who will head the planning effort in Paterson. “What this is about is that everything matters.”
Christie said it's a model he hopes to take to other cities as well.
"I truly believe it is the model for the way forward," he said. "The approach is comprehensive, pulling together people from inside and outside of government."
Still, local advocates and others were struggling yesterday to imagine what Paterson's Promise Communities will actually be.
School Superintendent Donald Evans said he looked forward to be part of the planning process and the partnerships to come, but added that commenting on specific details at this point would be "premature."
"My first reaction is this is great for Paterson," said Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund. "My second reaction is, 'What is it?' I open the box and nothing is in it yet."
She added that she was at a meeting of 35 nonprofit community groups in the city yesterday, and none have yet been recruited in the new effort.
Sterling said she does believe in the idea of building out social services around schools, and pointed to the "other" community-schools project already underway in the city thanks to a $2.5 million federal grant.
"We have had a really good first year, but we are still waiting the results of the state tests," she said. "This is not just a feel-good thing. We want to see real outcomes, and we don’t know yet.”
Still, she said the idea that the state may provide more funds to expand community schools elsewhere is welcomed, as long as it doesn’t drain existing resources.
The Global Village
Community schools are also well known to Newark, where they've been at the center of one of the most sweeping school improvement initiatives now underway, one in which seven elementary and secondary schools in the city’s Central Ward have banded together in the Global Village Zone.
With Canada also part of that launch three years ago when Jon Corzine was governor, the project has seen notable achievement gains in the school at the center of the project, Central High School. Last year, passing rates on the state’s high school tests doubled in both math and language arts.
But they still remain below the state averages, and even Pedro Noguera, one of its chief architects, said it is still evolving, with some of the social programs planned for engaging parents only starting this fall.
"Particularly when working in high-poverty communities, you need to focus on both the academic and the non-academic," said Noguera, professor of education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. "It’s not one of the other, you need both."
A self-professed fan of Canada’s and his Harlem Children’s Zone, Noguera said his one concern is that the Harlem project has focused more on social services without yet mastering the academic ones.
And having visited some of Paterson's schools, Noguera said there needs to be significant changes in the academic programs as well. "What we have done [at Central] is focus on improving the instruction and meeting the academic needs of these kids," he said.
Press of Atlantic City - Most N.J. school districts keeping restored state aid for next year's budget, not this year's property tax relief
Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2011 1:00 am | Updated: 6:24 am, Thu Jul 21, 2011.
Most N.J. school districts keeping restored state aid for next year's budget, not this year's property tax reliefBy DIANE D’AMICO Education WriterpressofAtlanticCity.com | 0 comments
New Jersey residents will have to wait until next year to see significant property tax relief from the extra $600 million in school aid restored in the state budget.
Only 20 of the state’s 580 public school districts have opted to return some or all of their restored state aid to taxpayers as property tax relief this year, a list provided Wednesday by the state Department of Education shows.
None of the districts returning money are in Atlantic or Cape May counties. Bridgeton in Cumberland County will return $72,743, which reduces the school tax levy to its state-mandated minimum. In Ocean County, both Brick Township and Lavalette Boro will use all of their extra aid to reduce property taxes.
The state DOE notified school districts July 12 how much state aid would be restored. But because property tax bills are already being prepared, local school boards had only until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide if they would use the money for property tax relief this year or save it for next year.
If local school boards decide they do want to spend any of the money during 2011-12 they must get the expenditures approved by the executive county superintendents. But some school officials said that, with school aid and the economy still in flux and the 2011-12 budgets already approved, it makes the most sense to bank the extra money for the 2012-13 school year.
“We got our budget approved by the voters this year, but who knows what next year will bring?” Buena Regional school superintendent Walt Whitaker said. “At this point it’s not just a rainy day fund, it’s a tornado fund.”
Several school officials said the extra state aid will be needed to replace the $268 million in federal Education Jobs Fund money the state received only for this school year.
They also stressed that the restored state aid still does not return them to the level of state funding they had two years ago.
“It’s important to remember all we had cuts last year,” Hamilton Township superintendent Michelle Cappelluti said. “We haven’t caught up yet.”
She said the district budget had no tax increase this year, so she would like to try to use some of the township’s almost $406,000 share to restore sports programs and staff while maintaining the tax rate next year.
Ventnor’s interim superintendent Robert Baker said they, too have made substantial cuts and the school board will have to discuss how to use the $204,000 in a way that can provide tax relief and maybe restore popular items such as courtesy busing.
The urban Abbott school districts, including Vineland, Millville, Bridgeton and Pleasantville, are expected to use their extra aid for programs. Bridgeton superintendent Thomasina Jones said the district got $15 million to spend during three years, so returning even a small amount to struggling taxpayers was an important gesture.
“We were in a position to relieve some of the pressure on residents, but we also have an obligation to spend the money on the students,” she said.
Vineland has not increased property taxes for years, and the district will reserve its $6.8 million to fund programs and help maintain that rate, business administrator Kevin Franchetta said.
Wildwood and Wildwood Crest also will save their money to offset a tax increase next year. Business administrator Greg Rohrman said Wildwood is already at its minimum tax levy, so they could not reduce it any more.
“Hopefully this money will eliminate the need for any tax increase next year,” he said.
Margate does plan to spend the money right away. Superintendent Theresa DeFranco said the almost $137,000 will help pay for replacing a gym floor at the William H. Ross Elementary School that has low-level mercury contamination.
“We have a list of priorities for facility repairs and that was a top priority,” she said.
Contact Diane D'Amico:
Asbury Park Press - 20 (list below) out of 580 towns use school aid to lower tax
12:18 PM, Jul. 21, 2011 |
TRENTON — Just 20 out of 580 public school districts in New Jersey will use some or all of their restored state education money to lower property taxes this year, the state Education Department said.
The Press of Atlantic City reported most of the districts are holding onto the extra cash for next year’s budgets, fearing another bad year.
The state restored $600 million in school aid this year.
Buena Regional School Superintendent Walt Whitaker said the big question is what next year’s budget year will bring.
“We got our budget approved by the voters this year, but who knows what next year will bring?” he asked. “At this point it’s not just a rainy day fund, it’s a tornado fund.”
Buena Regional is banking the money for the 2012-13 school year.
List of NJ school districts using aid for property tax relief
The districts using the extra aid for tax relief this year are, according to the state Department of Education:
— Lyndhurst, Bergen County
— Palisades Park, Bergen County
—River Edge, Bergen County
— Moorestown, Burlington County
—Lindenwold, Camden County
—Bridgeton, Camden County
—Glen Ridge, Essex County
—Washington Township, Gloucester County
—Hampton, Hunterdon County
— East Brunswick, Middlesex County
— Manasquan, Monmouth County
— Spring Lake Heights, Monmouth County
—Butler, Morris County
—West Morris Regional Schools, Morris County
—Brick, Ocean County
—Lavallette, Ocean County
—Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional Schools, Salem County
—Bridgewater-Raritan Regional Schools, Somerset County
—Warren Township, Somerset County
—Frankford, Sussex County
Garden State Coalition of Schools