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>So You Think Public Schools Use your Taxes Well? So You Think Teachers are Underpaid? Think Again!

>The Cartel, a new feature-length documentary about the waste, fraud and mismanagement within New Jersey public schools, will premiere in Teaneck, NJ, on Saturday, May 30th. The screening is part of the Hoboken International Film Festival, New Jersey’s most prestigious platform for original, new cinema.

In The Cartel, first-time filmmaker and New Jersey resident Bob Bowdon begins with the financial side of the education issue — showing how the belief that teachers are underpaid has produced an endless march toward higher education budgets — while billions of dollars quietly disappear, whistle-blowers are threatened or demoted, and over 80% of the money often never reaches the classroom.

Loaded with specific examples, the film shows:
Cases of NJ public school janitors receiving six figure salaries
A NJ public school district that pays six-figure salaries to over 400 administrators
NJ public school board members indicted for taking bribes from contractors
NJ public school superintendents getting over $400,000 dollars in compensation
A NJ public high school spending $30 million on a football field despite the fact that 85% of its students are failing state proficiency tests
A State Senator confirming that one billion dollars disappeared in NJ school construction funding without a single conviction, indictment or even arrest
A former NJ teacher of the year who examined her school’s budget and uncovered phony salaries for people who did not exist. When she reported the fraudulent accounting, she was brought up on formal charges of insubordination.

The Cartel reveals how teachers’ unions make it virtually impossible to get rid of a bad teacher. The point is hard to dispute when entire counties, like Bergen County, can go ten years without firing a single tenured teacher, and some urban districts, like Newark, let go tenured teachers at a rate of less than one in 3,000. The film also shows how even those very few “worst of the worst” teachers who finally do get fired can often just move over to a neighboring town and start teaching again. That’s because the dismissal records are typically sealed as part of the union-negotiated termination settlements.

The Hoboken International Film Festival’s world premiere of The Cartel will be at the Cedar Lane Cinemas in Teaneck, NJ, Saturday, May 30th, at 2pm. Tickets can be obtained online via the film’s

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>How Singapore Math stacks up

>How Singapore Math stacks up. Unlike our BOE, which doesn’t need any empirical evidence to support its decision for a new, untested math program, the Maryland BOE does. This link provides the powerpoint presentation given to the MD, BOE by Alan Ginsburg, from the US DOE. Shame on us for requiring so little from our Reginas and Illarias. If only we had a Board like this one, our children would be so much better served.

3balls Golf

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>Lost amid 40th District election battle – the issues


Lost amid 40th District election battle – the issues
Thursday, May 28, 2009

The bitter primary campaign by Republicans in the 40th District Assembly race has produced a lawsuit, three election complaints and a lots of angry rhetoric — but not a lot of discussion of the issues.

Incumbents Scott Rumana, R-Wayne, and David C. Russo, R-Ridgewood, face a stiff challenge from two businessmen, Joseph A. Caruso of Wayne and Anthony Rottino of Franklin Lakes, both making their first run for the state Legislature.

Gaining a GOP primary nomination in the heavily Republican 40th District makes a candidate a heavy favorite to win the general election in November.

Challenger Joseph Caruso says he’s bringing fresh blood to the Republican Party, which he says has lost its voice even as the state budget has become a huge problem for ruling Democrats. Like the other Republicans in the race, Caruso blames the Democrats for a state budget that has spiraled from $21 billion to $33 billion in seven years.

“The Republican Party is broken in New Jersey,” Caruso said. “We’re a party in need of a major overhaul. We raise money, but our party has no message. Our party has no unique ideas anymore.”

Both incumbents and challengers agree that the state must make deep cuts in its spending to help New Jersey struggle past the economic doldrums. Rottino and Caruso are calling for abolishing the state’s business tax, now pegged at 9 percent, as well as a 20 percent reduction in state spending, which is favored by gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan.

“Every time you turn around, it’s getting harder and harder to do business in New Jersey,” said Rottino, a developer who also owns two Harley-Davidson dealerships and a health club in Teterboro.

Rumana and Russo agree that state spending must be drastically reduced, but they say massive layoffs of the state workforce are not politically feasible. They favor steady reductions in state staffing through attrition and consolidation of positions.

“You can’t just shoot from the hip on these issues,” Rumana said. “The difference between Caruso and Rottino and myself is that they’ve never spent a day in office, and I have. I’ve been a freeholder, mayor and assemblyman.”

Caruso and Rottino say eliminating the state business tax would free millions of dollars to be poured instead into new business investment. Russo agrees with the idea in concept but says the lost tax revenue would somehow have to be replaced or it would open yet another gap in the state budget.

“I agree that business taxes are too high,” Russo said. “Eliminating the business tax might work, but only if you can find revenue elsewhere.”

Caruso, 35, is the finance chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization and owns a financial services company in Lyndhurst. One of his more radical ideas is to close the state Department of Environmental Protection, which he claims is strangling business with overregulation. He says the federal government could pick up the responsibilities for protecting the environment.

Rumana, 45, and Russo, 55, don’t agree with getting rid of the DEP but favor abolishing the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), which is responsible for imposing low-income housing quotas on municipalities. The quotas stem from Supreme Court decisions that communities have an obligation to promote housing for people of modest means.

As assemblyman, Rumana has sponsored several bills that would limit COAH’s powers. Rumana also has sponsored a bill to create a constitutional amendment to eliminate COAH altogether.

Caruso and the 43-year-old Rottino say they, too, would work to abolish COAH. They also favor abolition of the state’s Green Acres program, which buys up land from developers and preserves it as open space.

Rottino said it should be up to municipalities, not the state, to pay for open space preservation. Both Rumana and Russo favor continuation of the Green Acres program, which has exhausted its funding and will need to be replenished through a bond referendum. But because the state is so deeply in debt, Rumana said, it appears unlikely that the Green Acres bond issue will make it onto the ballot this year.

The political stakes are highest for Rumana, the freshman assemblyman who also is chairman of the Republican Party in Passaic County. Rumana took over the leadership three years ago, in the wake of a corruption scandal in which then-Chairman Peter Murphy went to prison for wire fraud.

Caruso and Rottino both have the backing of a political action committee, GOP Strong, started by Murphy.

Throughout the campaign, Rumana has sought to paint Caruso and Rottino as puppets of Murphy. But Caruso and Rottino say they are in the race to advance their own ideas and agendas.


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>School funding upheld by state Supreme Court


TRENTON The New Jersey Supreme Court on Thursday found Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s new school funding formula to be a “constitutionally adequate scheme,” signaling an end to the long-running case which for years required extra money for the state’s poorest districts.

In a unanimous ruling, the justices said the state no longer has to provide supplemental funding to the 31 so-called Abbott districts Ð which include Salem, Camden, Gloucester City and Bridgeton.

The state, however, must continue to fund schools to the level required by the new formula, which seeks to treat all districts the same. The formula will also be subject to review after three years, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote in the 138-page ruling for the five participating justices.

The decision is a victory for the Corzine administration, which has held that school funding should be “based on children’s needs, not children’s ZIP codes.”

It also has an impact statewide, since funding for the so-called Abbotts has been largely subsidized by the state. Additionally, after years of flat funding, the new formula implemented this school year provided many suburban and other districts with additional money, since it bases funding partially on the number of poor students in a district, nearly half of whom attend non-Abbotts.

Corzine called the ruling “historic” and said it brings to a conclusion decades of conflict and litigation that many thought would never end.

“By agreeing that the new funding formula is constitutional and that the prior Abbott remedies are no longer necessary, the court has allowed us to focus in a unified and predictable way on meeting our obligation to all of our children while in no way prejudicing those who have benefited from the Abbott rulings in the past,” Corzine said.

The ruling is the 20th decision in the Abbott v. Burke case, filed in 1981, although the original school funding case Ð Robinson v. Cahill, which alleged the state’s funding method discriminated against urban districts Ð began in 1970.

In the Abbott rulings issued over the years, the court ordered that poor districts be funded to the same level as wealthy ones, in order to provide children in impoverished areas the same opportunity for a “thorough and efficient” education as guaranteed by the New Jersey Constitution. That funding method, long considered controversial since a significant portion of residents’ tax bills go toward funding local schools, was expected to stand until the state came up with a constitutional formula.

Corzine proposed the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), which has been in place since July 2008, seeking to fund all districts in the same manner. The formula based funding on enrollment and then added money for each low-income student, or those receiving free or reduced lunch, each student with limited English proficiency and each student receiving special education.

Advocates for Abbott students have argued that the districts will be unable to maintain important programs under the new formula, which for the 2009-2010 school year would allocate $8 billion in direct aid to kindergarten-through-12th-grade districts statewide.

David Sciarra, who argued in court on behalf of the Abbott children, said the formula has already caused significant cutbacks in staff and programs.

“We are deeply concerned that the SFRA formula will quickly return New Jersey to the unequal school system we had in the past, and undo a decade of measurable educational improvements for our poorest children,” Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, said following the ruling.

Sciarra had hoped that the state would continue the supplemental funding without a time limit. There was also a chance that the court would accept a suggestion by a court-appointed special master, who found that the formula was constitutional, but said the state should continue extra funding three years.

But the justices rejected both, saying that Abbotts are expected to get $603 million in extra federal funding over the next two years and that the state has also budgeted emergency aid that is available for districts in need.

“The state has constructed a fair and equitable means designed to fund the costs of a thorough and efficient education,” Justice LaVecchia wrote. “The Legislature and Executive have made considerable efforts to confront the difficult questions of how to address the education needs of at-risk pupils, no matter where those children attend school.”

Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, who represents both Abbott and non-Abbott districts in Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland counties, hailed the decision, saying it was an enormous step forward for the state.

“The funding formula works and it’s fair,” said Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford, who helped rally Senate votes for passage of the school funding legislation last year. “The money’s supposed to follow the child.”

The court said the constitutionality of the funding formula is based on the condition that the state continues providing the necessary amount of money required under the law.

Sciarra, of the Education Law Center, said he was “heartened” by that stipulation. He said his group “will take every action possible to hold the governor and Legislature accountable.”

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the state’s former attorney general, and Justice Virginia Long did not participate in the case.

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>The Board will pay one hundred (100) percent of single premium for a health insurance/major medical plan …

>Here it is in black and white:

For eligible tenured employees:

The Board will pay one hundred (100) percent of single premium for a health insurance/major medical plan providing for a level of benefits equal to or better than described in Group CIGNA Insurance Plan, Board of Education of the Township of Ridgewood, Revised, December 1990.

For dependents of eligible tenured employees: (to age 23 for dependent child). The employee must contribute 5.25% of the premium cost which must be paid through payroll deductions. Effective July 1, 2008, the deductibles for Traditional Indemnity will be $200 single/$600 family.

During open enrollment period, eligible tenured employees may opt to enroll in the PPO Blue Card Plan subject to plan restrictions. For single coverage, the Board will pay one hundred (100) percent of single premium cost. For dependent coverage (to age 23 for dependent child), the employee must pay 5.0% of the premium cost of the P.P.O. Payment must be made through payroll deductions. The Board shall not change the level of benefits for the Traditional Indemnity Plan or the Horizon Blue Card PPO that has been achieved through bargaining between the Association and the Board for 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2011.

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>Valley has started Push Calling

It seems that Valley Hospital has hired a telemarketing company to call Ridgewood residents and REMIND them to attend the June 2 and 8 Public hearings and support the “Renewal”.

Cards were also mailed to supporters inviting them to attend a “Light Supper” before the June 2 meeting and receive final instructions.

A reader asks, “how many not-for-profit dollars is Valley prepared to spend in order to get a chance to spend $750 million?” The conclusion is that there must be BIG PROFITS at stake.

3balls Golf

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>Census 2010 Update for Ridgewood

>U.S. Census workers will be in Ridgewood during the next few weeks, conducting an Address Canvassing Operation in preparation for the 2010 Census.

Address canvassers will use new hand held computers equipped with GPS to increase geographic accuracy. In most cases, census workers will knock on residents’ doors to verify addresses and inquire about additional living quarters on the premises.

Census workers can be identified by the official Census Bureau badge they carry. 201 Census workers will never ask for bank or social security information. All census information collected, including addresses, are confidential and protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share the information with any other government agency.

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New Jersey’s Flat Tax Debate

Christie’s cheap shots can hurt everyone.

If ever a state were ripe for bold economic reform, it would be New Jersey, which is shedding jobs and is in perennial budget crisis despite one of the highest tax burdens in the land. So why is Chris Christie, the GOP front-runner in the state’s 2009 gubernatorial race, taking cheap shots at the flat tax?

Mr. Christie is a former U.S. attorney who did yeoman work putting away the state’s many political thieves. But he seems to be running scared in next month’s Republican primary, when he faces former Mayor of Bogota Steve Lonegan, who is proposing to scrap Jersey’s job-killing graduated income tax that has rates running from 1.4% to 8.97%. Mr. Lonegan wants to replace it with a 2.9% flat tax on the first dollar of income earned.

That’s a good idea that would give the Garden State the lowest tax rate in the Northeast after New Hampshire. Mr. Lonegan says this will ensure that when New Jersey incomes “move-up,” the residents “don’t move out.” Over the past decade, New Jersey has suffered the fourth highest rate of out-migration of all the states, with nearly half a million residents fleeing to the likes of Delaware, Florida and even New York.

Mr. Christie is assailing Mr. Lonegan’s proposal on TV, radio and the Internet as a tax hike on the poor. His TV ad claims the flat tax isn’t fair because it would raise taxes on “almost 70% of working families.” That sounds like he’s reading from President Obama’s teleprompter. Mr. Lonegan counters that only 40% would pay more — by an average of less than $300 for a family earning $20,000 — and their tax liability would still be lower than in New York and Pennsylvania. The average New Jersey family’s tax bill would fall by $1,000 a year.

Whether a flat tax that modestly raises the tax payments of some Americans will fly politically is hard to know. The state and federal tax code are so laced with tax credits and exemptions that any base-broadening, rate-cutting reform is bound to raise taxes on someone. Our friend Steve Forbes, a New Jersey resident, believes that a flat tax that “cuts taxes for everyone” is the way to go. Mr. Lonegan counters that every working New Jersey resident should pay something — on the principle that everyone should bear at least some of the cost of government.

The larger point is that either reform would be far better than the current tax code for New Jersey’s poor, who suffer the most from the state’s high rates that drive jobs and capital elsewhere. A flat tax would help all income groups by attracting those resources back to the state. Surely Mr. Christie realizes that.

Both GOP candidates agree that the 103 tax increases, including income and sales tax rate hikes, under current Governor Jon Corzine and his predecessor, the disgraced Jim McGreevey, have done great harm to their state. From 2001 to 2008, New Jersey lost a net 25,000 private-sector jobs even as public employment grew by 65,000 workers. The state’s finances are such a mess that in late 2007 Governor Corzine proposed the political “Hail Mary” of mortgaging New Jersey’s toll roads in return for a guaranteed revenue stream. He lost, thanks to opposition led by Mr. Lonegan.

If he wins the primary, Mr. Christie will need his own tax reform agenda, both to defeat Mr. Corzine and win a mandate for changing the corrupt mess that is Trenton. Mr. Christie should understand that a flatter tax is an economic and anticorruption strategy because it limits the opportunity for political mediation on behalf of special interests. Republicans can’t credibly be the candidates of growth if they echo liberal class-envy rhetoric to attack tax reform.

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>Deli Update – Board of Adjustment Meeting Minutes from 5/12/2009

>ROGER SCHNORRBUSCH – (Postponed from 4/28/09) To request a decision from the Board, as to whether or not there was an intent to abandon a non-conforming use, namely a delicatessen in an R-2 single family residence district. In the alternative, should the Board decide the prior use was abandoned, applicant requests a use variance to permit a delicatessen in an R-2 zone at 203 S. Van Dien Avenue, Block 4301 Lot 1 in an R-2 zone. David Rutherford Attorney, and Roger Schlicht Architect, appeared representing the applicant, Roger Schnorrbusch. Mr. Schnorrbusch stated that he presently owns and operates a deli on Erie Avenue, in Midland Park. He also stated that there will be no counter, tables or stools at this location and there is no plan for outdoor seating at this time. Also the front yard will be landscaped and the black top removed. Kevin Sheehy, neighbor at 153 S. Van Dien Avenue submitted exhibit O-1, Board of Health Inspection Violation. Joseph Carfora, 211 S. Van Dien Avenue had questions regarding tenant parking. Karen Sheehy, 153 S. Van Dien Avenue objected to the application. William McLaughlin, 28 Glen Avenue, Midland Park spoke in favor of the application. Roger Schlicht submitted Exhibits A-1 colorized proposed elevation of store, A-2 4 photos of existing store, A-3 black and white proposed elevation of store, A-4 floor plan, A-5 through A-14 photos of existing interior of store. Application was carried to 5/26/09

1-800-PetMeds Fetch/392x72.gif

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>New Math Program

>I have read the responses to the new math program with great interest. I had expected to log on and see rejoicing since it was clear to anyone familiar with the process that Regina Botsford did not get her first choice, which was Everyday Math. As little as a few weeks ago, it seemed inevitable to most around the district that Regina was going to ignore the feedback given by the teachers and community and opt with the math program that came the closest to mirroring the one adopted by the middle school. In fact, someone “in the know” all but admitted that there was little chance of going with the more traditional Envision program.

You probably paused for a moment when you saw the words “traditional” and “Envision” used in the same sentence. I would have paused too if I had first seen the video presented on your site or read the comments left by others on the blog. The fact is, though, that anyone familiar with the program and its text (which is the main component that the district is adopting) can see that it is just a new version of your traditional Scott Foresman text. The lessons introduce traditional algorithms and give the student ample opportunity to practice them. Everything else consists of bells and whistles. In the highly competitive text marketplace, these companies include technology-based add-ons and other features that appeal to boards of education looking for the latest buzzwords. But in the end, the residents and teachers are getting what they asked for – a textbook that looks and functions like a traditional text. It is very close to what even the board of education’s biggest detractors called for, and it is definitely not what Regina would have chosen had she been able to choose on her own. In fact, there is very little about it that would appeal to her, or anyone else who leans heavily towards programs such as Everyday Math and TERC.

My first thought when I read the responses was that any program chosen by the board would have been ripped apart by your blog’s readers simply because board approval suggests that the program was endorsed by Regina. I think people who feel that way have to open their eyes a bit and realize that Dan Fishbein has greater control over these decisions than his predecessors. As someone more familiar with this situation than most of the people who have expressed displeasure, I can assure you that this is a bigger victory for those people than they currently realize.

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