Mayor’s Message: The future of our schools

Mayor Louis Manzo discusses the educational reform section of the Path to Progress Report and how it affects school.

As the school year ends, I encourage you to educate yourself on what is brewing in Trenton and how it could affect the future of our schools. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, step No. 1 should be to read the Path to Progress Report, which can be found on our township website. Published last August, the 37-page report lists multiple “potential” actions to address the fiscal crisis facing our state. As I’ve written earlier this year, I felt certain that this time Trenton was going to take some type of action, instead of just talking about it. That makes it imperative for residents to understand and engage in this process.

In case you didn’t know, on May 16, there were 27 bills introduced in the state Senate related to the Path the Progress Report’s list of potential actions. They will be debated in the coming weeks and the Legislature may deliver any number of those bills to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. I’m told some bills may go the path of landing on the ballot for voters to decide in 2020. My point is, something is happening, folks.

Though the topics covered in the PPR and related bills are wide ranging, I want to focus on the elements that will impact our schools and the education process as we know it. So, let this serve as the introduction and part one of a three-part series I will write entitled, “The Future of our Schools.” After reading the PPR, step no. 2 should be to read the New Jersey School Board Association report, entitled, “Impediments to School District Regionalization.” You can find it on our township website also.

The 17-page report identifies six obstacles to regionalization, which is one of the actions suggested in the PPR. The NJSBA and their report do not diametrically oppose regionalization; in fact, they support the action when there’s proof of both educational and financial benefits. They assisted in the most recent regionalization in the state with the creation of the South Hunterdon Regional School District in 2013.

While their report identifies the obstacles, it also provides potential solutions for each obstacle, which I found refreshing. Like you, I’m tired of hearing opposition rhetoric with little basis and no intention to seek the best option available to address a problem. That mindset is why we find ourselves in the position we are in, here in New Jersey. Notoriously high property taxes and residents leaving our state at a higher rate than anywhere else. Something has to give.

So, in the next two issues, I will seek to provide facts and data about our schools and how they rank when compared to others within their peer group. We will look at the total administrative cost per-pupil, teacher’s and administrator’s median salaries and student/teacher/administrator ratios, along with some of the practical ramifications of creating a k-12 district.

All these factors need to be considered as solutions are vetted. None of the PPR suggested actions make you feel good, so let’s ensure our support comes from the most informed perspective possible.