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Jump in Enrollment Reduces School Quality

 Steve Kim from a post of Facebook
Ridgewood NJ, I wrote this back in 2018. The discussion is still relevant. Local issues impact us directly. We need to focus on them as top priority. That can be best done in spring.
Vote NO to November election consolidation. The vote is way back in your ballot on page 3. In November, all local issues get placed way in the back and many are forgotten.

Jump in Enrollment Reduces School Quality (Why it’s important not to ignore the households without kids in the Ridgewood school system)
An important quantitative indicator that measures education quality is the student-teacher ratio. It makes intuitive sense: more students per teacher means less attention given to each student, and vice versa. Ridgewood’s ratio is 13:1. Not bad.
For Ridgewood, two key factors influence the ratio.First is the ratio of number of households with children to number of households without children. In Ridgewood, there are 8596 households in total. Of that, 4440 or 51.65% of the households are without children. So broadly speaking, for each household that has kids, there is another household who co-funds education.Ridgewood, for a town with a good school system, is an anomaly in this composition. The ratio of households without children for Glen Rock is 49.07%, Tenafly 48.89%, and Millburn 49.55%.
If the composition for Ridgewood converges to that of the other towns, that means far higher enrollment and therefore deterioration in the student teacher ratio. Even if the households without children drops to 50%, still above the average of the other towns mentioned, that would mean 142 households that are likely to have children attending the schools, which points to more than 200 additional kids enrolled. (Based on my quick calculation, there are on average 2 children per household within the category of households with children.)

Bottomline: the residents who live here without children in the system do so because they like the town and they don’t mind helping pay for the school. However, if the school budget grows well in excess of inflation year after year, many in the category would flee.

Another factor to consider is high density build. If additional housing capacity is built, then the chance of jump in enrollment at the school is likely. It doesn’t take far reaching assumption to realize what the jump in enrollment could be. Per every 100 units built and rented, we could possibly see 20 or more new enrollment. My guess is more. You can do your own guessing on this.

As for school expense, cost per student is a useful measure, but what is more indicative is the marginal cost of adding new students to the system. This has to do with capacity. If there is excess capacity, then adding additional students won’t cost the school that much more given fixed costs. However, once the capacity is tapped, adding facilities to accommodate increasing enrollment would require severe jumps in cost and borrowing.
Enrollment bloating beyond capacity is what’s happening to Hackensack: 700 new enrollment is forcing the Hackensack to build a new school, which will cost over $90mm. In the past, adding new wings to schools cost Ridgewood around $5mm per project.

As with all things, balance is important. What Ridgewood has in terms of balance is unique and beneficial to those who have kids in the system both in terms of educational cost and quality. Key is to keep it this way through sound school management, both fiscal and operational.

There any many studies on student-teacher ratio’s link to education quality. This study is that of college students, but still relevant and well-written:…/ilr…/files/WP136.pdf

14 thoughts on “Jump in Enrollment Reduces School Quality

  1. All great points and highlights we need to keep the school budget vote. My only question is, if student teacher ratio is the primary key indicator, why is it that when I graduated RHS and we had about 600 kids in each graduating class, the schools were physically smaller, yet we ranked as a very good school?

  2. All very interesting information. What is the average graduation class now.

  3. I voted NO to the election consolidation that would strip us of our right to vote on how our tax dollars are allocated. VOTE NO!

  4. Vote No!

    OVOV wants to take ur right to vote away. They try to spin in It but don’t believe them.


    Coming to RDWD soon. Wait till local social justice warriors elect a diversity candidate replacing Fishbein. All these other problems like higher enrollment would seem like a bliss!

  6. Dirty politics

  7. Not drawn to scale…

  8. Graduation flucutuates between 410 and 425 kids…

  9. Steve- 2% budget increases every year keeps up with inflation. As you know, many Ridgewood families choose to send their children to private schools for a variety of reasons. That might be part of the reason for the higher percentage of households without children in the schools. Many Ridgewood residents stay here after their children graduate. I think this is all something to celebrate.
    20, 40, 80 children that come out of the new apartments can be accommodated into the schools. We have 10 schools – that’s max. 8 students/school. With the natural attrition every year it will be ok.

  10. I have 5 neighbors that have retired but still live here….kind of remarkable….

  11. Don’t flatter yourself. The majority of Ridgewood residents do not have kids in the schools. I suspect there’s a correlation to the aging population and millennials inability or reluctance to buy houses.

  12. Holding on-cycle local elections would improve American democracy. Ridgewood shows us how. I’m voting YES!

  13. The author of the editorial is from California. What the heck does he know about New Jersey politics? That group is so desperate to get the vote passed that they’re hiring somebody from California!

  14. He’s an expert on racial and ethnic politics, urban politics, immigration, and political behavior…. something you are not anonymous.

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