Even the Wealthy Get Squeezed

NJ State’s seizure of school district surpluses has aroused much anguish as board members and administrators huddle around balance sheets; much of the focus has been on poor districts that managed to sock away money and now find themselves making harsh cuts. It’s not so different in wealthy communities such as Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, with a DFG of I.

Mostly White and Asian, the district boasts top-notch programs and performance. For example, Bridgewater-Raritan High School, with 2,804 kids, aces the HSPA’s (the 11th grade standardized tests) with a failure rate in language arts of only 3.5%. In math, only 8.5% fail (the state average is 26.4%) and 37.9% of kids there actually make the cut-off for Advanced Proficient. SAT scores are 568 in math and 533 in verbal. The state average is 515 and 494. Listen to this: B-R High School offers 28 Advanced Placement courses, including Microeconomics, Chinese, and Latin (Vergil). 28.7% of the kids participate, 931 take A.P. tests, and 817 score 3 or higher. 92.6% of graduates go to college.

Two local articles (here and here) describe the painful Board meeting Tuesday night when a standing room-only crowd heard that the district is losing $4 million in surplus, is cutting $2 million in costs, and may cut another $2.4 million if state aid drops by 15%. In addition, teachers and administrators are due annual raises of 4.35%. Proposals to close the gap include privatizing 84 custodians, cutting 15.5 teachers, changing the gifted and talented program, and raising class size.