On June 12 about 100 people attended an ‘Education Town Hall and Panel Discussion’ at Bloomfield High School in New Jersey. Although billed as a discussion, Jeff Frankel of NorthJersey.com writes that much of the evening was focused on attacking Governor Chris Christie and his Republican reformist administration. Senator Rice stated that public education was under attack by private charter schools.
“What you need to understand what is taking place in New Jersey is taking place across the country,” he said. “People say it’s a conspiracy and it’s not.”
The event was sponsored by the Bloomfield Board of Education and Save our Schools NJ. Attending were three Democrat state legislators: Sen. Ronald Rice, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker was also slated to take part in the panel but failed to attend.
Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools also expressed concern that virtual schools were depleting the funds available for public schools. State laws mean that virtual schools can be paid up to 90% of the $17,000 which would be paid to the public school if the student attended. Her main contention was that home learning on a computer should be a cheap exercise.
“This is really a good business,” Sass Rubin said. “Somebody is making $15,000, and it costs $2,000 at most to educate that person.”
There are currently plans for up to five additional home learning virtual charter schools which may be up and running for the coming Fall.
“Whether they…intended it or not, public education is under attack in the state of New Jersey,” said Caputo, a former educator.
The Board of Education President, Mary Shaugnessey, said that while the current proposed state budget would increase the base amount of per-pupil spending, this wouldn’t help Bloomfield as the budget reduces funding to districts serving a large number of poor and non English speaking students.
According to New Jersey’s Office of Legislative Services, the state has underfunded Bloomfield public schools by nearly $17.9 million during the past three years. Between 2013 and 2017, the township will fall another $13.2 million short of the funds the state itself says the district needs to help students reach state-mandated academic standards, according to Shaughnessy.
Bloomfield Superintendent Jason Bing said that limited funding was preventing him from launching more programs for the district.