All final proposals would go before the voters in the affected districts, and if voters in any district reject it, that plan does not take effect.There’s lots of evidence out there that school district consolidation saves money and improves educational opportunities. The Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University has a report that explains how “consolidation makes fiscal sense” and quantifies the savings at 28% for very small districts and 9% for larger districts. Bruce Baker, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers (and blogster at School Finance 101), rates New Jersey as his top pick for school district regionalization and consolidation. He writes,
The case is similar, though arguably even more exaggerated in the nation’s most population dense state – New Jersey. Like Vermont, New Jersey has a multitude of small, non-unified school districts, not in the remote southern pine barrens area, but in densely populated areas adjacent to New York City (Bergen County) and near Philadelphia. In some cases, undersized K-8 school districts span a few city blocks. Even more so than Vermont, New Jersey has made efforts to improve equity in school funding – but some of these gains are necessarily offset by the awkward and inefficient organization of New Jersey school districts.In spite of solid evidence that school district consolidation not only addresses property tax inequities but also educational ones, New Jerseyans are stuck. The Legislature’s 2007 CORE Act, which was supposed to address our sky-high property taxes is, well, flaccid as a wet noodle. One dissent from any school district kills the deal, in spite of the clearly delineated advantages of decreasing segregation and increasing educational equity.
Not to mention agendas from New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey Education Association. As far as NJSBA goes, how could any lobbying group advocate for eliminating posts for its members? Here’s their FAQ sheet on regionalization, which is remarkably balanced given their members’ interests. Less balanced is the NJEA’s view on even the most minor forms of regionalizations, like consolidating county special services boards of education and county vocational boards. From the NJEA’s Government Relations Committee Report to the General Assembly on an Assembly bill that would consolidate just those county schools districts:
NJEA initially had several serious concerns about this legislation. With the assistance of UniServ and NJEA network attorneys, the Association crated amendatory language to protect and preserve the rights of NJEA members. This amendatory language was incorporated into the bill making it possible for NJEA to take a neutral position on it.In other words, the Assembly folded to NJEA demands and rewrote the bill to eliminate any potential cost savings.
How much do we spend anyway on all our layers of governance, not only in schools but in our multiple municipal layers of government? John Bury of the Star-Ledger is toting up the costs of freeholders and county payrolls. It’s enough to make you want to consolidate.