Nuances of School Funding

Today’s Star-Ledger reports on a new bill (A1391) that would create a pilot program to allow 25 NJ school districts to extend the school day. The costs would be paid by corporations who would, in turn, be eligible for tax credits.

The bill is sponsored by Democrat Assemblymen Charles Mainor and Gilbert Wilson. After three years the program would be evaluated for efficacy.

An interesting element of this bill is its blurring of what many in the education world perceive as a blazing bifurcation between public and private funds. While examples abound of private money supporting public schools – from grants to school bus advertisements to PTA’s  to educational foundations --  this dichotomous pretense can incite a surprising degree of animus (like with the Opportunity Scholarship Act) towards programs that incorporate non-public funding.

But how can one oppose an opportunity to extend school days for needy kids, especially a carefully circumscribed one that’s capped at 25 districts for a three-year pilot? (See here for counterpoint.) It’s like a form of behavioral therapy: gradually expose the phobic patient to a trigger and the patient learns that, hey, it’s not that bad. And the benefits go beyond the trigger if we can accept that the school funding world is far more nuanced than our current Manichean outlook.