Avi Schnall, Director of Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey office has provided the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools and the State Monitor with a recently-distributed disturbing summary of unused nonpublic school funds that had to be returned to the State of New Jersey because they were not utilized.
These funds include monies for the Lakewood School District and every other school district in the State with a nonpublic student population. The funds cover areas such as nonpublic handicapped aid, nonpublic nursing services, nonpublic technology aid, nonpublic textbook aid and nonpublic security aid.
By way of example, in fiscal year 2016 Lakewood had not used $2,385,272 or 30% of nonpublic handicapped aid entitlement, $231,578 or 10% of its nonpublic nursing aid, $146,949 or 23% of the nonpublic technology aid (compared to 7% statewide); $95,956 or 7% of textbook aid and $145,037 or 23% in security aid.
Many are of the opinion that the reason for these staggering numbers both in Lakewood and Statewide is the amount of bureaucracy and red-tape which the nonpublic school must traverse in order to get this much needed funding. The Department of Education has developed a complicated set of handbooks outlining the rules and procedures for public schools to follow as it pertains to nonpublic school services.
This, in turn, has resulted in such a burdensome and frustrating process that many nonpublic school have simply thrown their hands up and asked “why bother even applying for these funds?”.
According to former Board President and current Board Member Isaac Zlatkin, who was charged by President Iann with overseeing a nonpublic school committee to address this problem, “we must come up with a set of simple guidelines that the nonpublic schools can follow so that they can get these much needed funds.” Zlatkin emphasized that it is disgraceful that we are returning millions of dollars to the State each year for services, technology and supplies than can better our children’s education and provide them with needed safety and security.
President Iann believes that Zlatkin is the right man for the job since he previously dealt with all of the District’s transportation issues and was very successful in bringing the transportation costs per student to its lowest level in the State in years. He is “very detail-oriented and can get the job done,” said Iann.
Zlakin believes that we need to bridge the gap between the State, the District and the nonpublic schools so that they can understand the process and know exactly what they need to do.
Zlatkin said we cannot have one set of rules today and a different set of rules tomorrow, explaining, “everyone needs to be on the same page or the process will break down as the numbers currently show.” He has asked the Board attorney to develop some clear and understandable guidelines as a first step in the process.
Meetings will be scheduled with all of the stakeholders, including with Agudath Israel, in the near future so that we do not have a repeat of fiscal year 2017 with returning money to State, Zlatkin said.
“Nobody wants to see that, and I will do everything I can so that we do not have a repeat performance,” says Zlatkin.
The rules are the rules. Use it or lose it money happens in public schools too.
With M.S. Newhouse soon to be sworn in on the Board of Education I am confident these issues will no longer be of concern. He is the best man for the job glad he got elected
there is no excuse for having this money slip through our fingers. Somebody dropped the ball.
Thanks for finally some one actually doing something positive. They will be successful BE”H.
Nobody dropped the ball. Many of these rules are arbitrary rules made by the local bureaucrats in the district. We are not talking about only state or federal rules that everybody knows you have no choice with. They make deadlines for purchasing that are months ahead of the state or federal rules and many times schools need more time to see what they really need. They will put any obstacles in the schools way to make it harder to spend the money wisely.
The state monitors are sent down to make sure what ever the employees of the the BOE are doing are as per the written law- also known as Bureaucracy. They did not write the law.
Part of the problem is that the non public schools A) need to recognize that the old days are done and there will be checks and balances as the Lakewood Administration is under oversight and is and will be transforming to be in line with all laws pertaining to administration of public funds.B) The BOE and the State monitors must train and educate their administrations as well as the non public schools administration in a timely fashion to explain what the requirements are and how to go about meeting the requirements to obtain the funds so they dont lose it. I am not sure if the rules actually changed or the non public schools are know finding out that the Lakewood BOE Administration is learning from the State monitors how to do it the right way as per the law as its written. .
C) I personally heard a Superintendent (not from Lakewood) from a public school state that its best to not let the non public schools know about the Title 1 funds as then the extra monies go to the public school. In this situation the funds go back to the state. So the local school does not gain anything by showing unused funds. In fact it may hurt all of us next year when the budget comes out and those funds estimate are now lowered.
You are mistaken. They do write the laws. Nobody is complaining about the standard State laws. The complaint is about the additional layers of beauracracy that the local people make up in order to,make it more difficult for our schools To spend the money.
This is the same tired story everytime with the schools and funding. It’s “too hard… too complicated, too bureacratic. Get real. That ain’t gonna change. Get smart. If so many millions are at stake then invest in a special funding office with a couple or a few paid full-time staffers dedicated to working through the process with the applicants. Full time dedication and consistent communications will prevail. Giving up or hiring a lawyer at the last minute will cost more and accomplish nothing now or going forward without a one focused dedicated staff. Stop playing games, blaming and whining…. you’re short changing your own kids for God’s sake. Do it now and do something productive and good.
The main issue is that previously the nonpublic schools made the purchases from their own preferred local or connected vendors in violation of the Public School Contracts Law. This is no longer the case. The Contracts Law is being enforced and many nonpublic schools refuse goods or services other than from their preferred local stores and neighbors, even identical goods. They prefer to spend their own funds rather than state or federal funds so they can use their preferred local vendors. The district must return funds that are spent in violation of Contracts Law. The burearacy is in existing State and Federal Laws and regulations. Not more than 5 years ago, the district had to return millions of dollars that were already spent in state and federal funds, both district and nonpublic, for legal violations.
Surprise, surprise. The parochial patronage is appalling. Cut your nose off to spite your face. Blame the bureaucrazy. If we can’t get the money, no one gets it. We send it back. No fair bidding. The kids lose. Worse than shameful.
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