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Your Zip Code Should Not Determine Your Success in New Jersey

kids- ArtChick

file photo by ArtChick

August 14,2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, the Franklin Center, a non-profit, public-interest media and public policy organization invited the Ridgewood blog to attend  their “Amplify School Choice” conference in Denver.

The conference took place all day Thursday, August 11 through noon on Friday, August 12 at the SpringHill Suites in downtown Denver. Over 50 of America’s top bloggers and citizen journalists attended the event .

While we are advantaged with quality schools in Ridgewood , it is simply not true for so many parents and so many young people in New Jersey . We have all read about chronically under preforming schools  all over New Jersey . The reality is your zip determines your educational opportunities and success.

The fact is urban education, despite 30 years of New Jersey Supreme Court required intervention by the state, is still failing students and their parents at an alarming rate.  The theory from the Supreme Court was that money would solve the problem.

“But as we have all become aware is , “The Abbott school experiment is a colossal failure because it is based on the theory that throwing money at a problem fixes it. Problems facing urban schools are cultural and socio-economic. When people in power face up to that, we can make progress.
There’s not a lot of political profiles in courage because it is easier to toss tax money or make excuses than to say until underlying causes are dealt with, it won’t get any better, just more expensive with more kids’ lives wasted. A few politicians do get it.  (Ingle, Gannett)

Not only have the policy been a abysmal failure but the cost to non “Abbott School” tax payers has been astronomical.

Governor Chris Christie pointed out recently the , ” New Jersey spends the 3rd most in the nation per pupil on K-12 education.  For the upcoming fiscal year we spend 13.3 billion dollars on aid to K-12 education.  How do we spend it?  $9.1 billion goes back to school districts in direct aid.  $3.25 billion is to pay for the pensions and health benefits for retired teachers.   $936 million goes to pay the debt on schools, mostly in urban districts, to build new schools.  $13.3 billion—and that does not count the money paid in local property taxes.

Who gets the $9.1 billion? Well, that begins to tell the story.  By order of the Supreme Court, and coerced acquiescence by the elected branches of government, this coming year $5.1 billion goes to the 31 urban or SDA districts.  $4 billion goes to the remaining 546 districts.  That’s right.  58% of the aid from the state’s taxpayers goes to 5% of the state’s school districts. 42% of the aid goes to the remaining 95% of our districts. This is absurd.  This is unfair.  This is not working.  And it hasn’t been working for 30 years.”

This is why Govenour Chris Christie has proposed giving all school districts same amount of aid, and provide some towns like Ridgewood property tax relief.

It is clearly time for some new ideas , and new student centered education policies . Here are a few we discussed at  the  “Amplify School Choice” conference in Denver.

School choice: a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools, to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence.

Open Enrollment : the process by which parents/guardians residing in a district may enroll their children into any school district in New Jersey.

Charter Schools:  a publicly funded independent school established by teachers, parents, or community groups under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority.

Home Schooling : A “must read” for new homeschoolers! In New Jersey, the Legislature under the compulsory education law (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25) has permitted children to receive “equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school,” including the home.