Trenton Values

NJ school districts greeted the news of additional state aid with varying amounts of resentment (not enough) and celebration (Paterson, for example, will see about $80 million additional dollars). Trenton Public Schools gets $10 million more than expected.

According to today’s Trenton Times, the President of the Trenton School Board, Rev. Toby Sanders, wants to use the money to hire back 181 custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and secretaries. Earlier this year the Board rebelled against the advice of State Fiscal Monitor, Mark Cowell, by voting to maintain those employees instead of privatizing the positions at a substantial savings. Cowell vetoed the vote. Now, says Rev. Sanders,“The board of education has spoken clearly of its desire to keep good, hard-working, tax-paying employees on the payroll.”

But is that really the best use of money for the kids in Trenton? It’s wonderful to have neighbors working in local schools. Does that benefit override the opportunity to, say, lower class size by hiring more teachers? Or update and/or purchase better instructional materials? Or create programming that boosts student achievement?

A spokeswoman for the DOE said, “Regarding Abbott districts, the increased aid to these schools should be directed strategically toward areas of education as determined by each respective district.” Doesn’t sound like hiring local custodians fulfills that mandate.