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1-23-09 Schools get an eduction in thrift
Star Ledger editorial: January 23, 2009 "State Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy recently sent an urgent message to school districts and charter schools: Freeze all non-essential and discretionary district spending...

...Commissioner Davy also says she'll seek advice from the education community on state mandates that can be lifted to help reduce the financial burden on school districts.

Five years ago, the state Mandate Relief Commission issued its own cost-saving recommendations, some of which were adopted. Others may now finally have their day.

For example: Each school district is required to have a treasurer of school moneys, a part-time position costing between $2,500 and $12,000 a year. The commission called that "anachronistic." A treasurer's duties should be reassigned to the school board secretary, according to the report, which back in 2004 predicted a savings statewide of as much as $3.6 million.

The Garden State Coalition of Schools [which also led the charge that established the original Mandate Commission], which represents 110 suburban districts, would like to see an end to the mandate that makes it impossible for a district to accept donated services from parents who may be non-union contractors. At a time when parents are asked to give more, it seems silly to put obstacles in the way of their generosity..."

(For the record, many GSCS member districts began freezing items defined as non-essential in the early Fall.)

Star Ledger editorial  

'Schools get an education in thrift'

Posted by tadepoto January 23, 2009 05:22AM

State Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy recently sent an urgent message to school districts and charter schools: Freeze all non-essential and discretionary district spending.

That means any spending not related to classroom instruction. In an interview, Davy gave some general examples of discretionary spending that districts might consider.

New baseball uniforms for the team? The old ones will do just fine.

Replacing an old copier with the latest model? Hold off.

A secretary retiring? No rush to fill the position just yet.

Five staffers heading to a conference in Arizona? One will do.

Local school officials trying to follow Davy's recommendation are looking at cutting out things like consulting contracts and free food at staff and parent meetings.

Commissioner Davy also says she'll seek advice from the education community on state mandates that can be lifted to help reduce the financial burden on school districts.

At the top on her list: the many different ways school districts are required to report to the state on student performance. Davy would like to simplify the process, which would greatly reduce paperwork and save staff time.

Five years ago, the state Mandate Relief Commission issued its own cost-saving recommendations, some of which were adopted. Others may now finally have their day.

For example: Each school district is required to have a treasurer of school moneys, a part-time position costing between $2,500 and $12,000 a year. The commission called that "anachronistic." A treasurer's duties should be reassigned to the school board secretary, according to the report, which back in 2004 predicted a savings statewide of as much as $3.6 million.

The Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents 110 suburban districts, would like to see an end to the mandate that makes it impossible for a district to accept donated services from parents who may be non-union contractors. At a time when parents are asked to give more, it seems silly to put obstacles in the way of their generosity.

All of these cost-cutting moves are worthy of review. These are no ordinary times, and districts need to respond quickly to an economy that is forcing everyone to do more with less.

At the same time we have to wonder: What took so long?

Even before the current crisis, school districts should have cut out all unnecessary spending. Is there ever a time when a school district is justified in sending five people to a conference?

The state's fiscal emergency has focused everyone's attention. But the fact remains that many of these moves would have made sense last year, too.


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