Why Are Lakewood’s Public Schools Doomed To Continue Failing? How Much Is This Costing Children In Our Mosdos?

[Submitted by Rabbi Meir Hertz] In the new school year, a confluence of five factors has brought some unprecedented challenges to Lakewood’s deeply troubled school district.

These 5 factors are as follows: 1. Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, New Jersey is operating under a waiver of many of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB), requirements, giving NJ’s school districts much greater operational flexibility.

2. The federal ‘supplement not supplant’ rule mandates that school districts use federal funding to add to (supplement), and not replace (supplant), the state and local funds they spend on education. This provision is intended to ensure that the true beneficiaries of the federal funding are the educationally at-risk students. However, this year, all six (6) Lakewood public schools are approved for the Title 1 ‘school-wide’ program. As a result, the basic requirement of ‘supplement not supplant’ is trumped.

3. Due to a change this year in the federal definition of ‘low-income’ for Title 1 eligibility, Lakewood’s total Title 1 allocation increased by 77%, from $8,727,354 in 2012, to $15,433,376 in 2013. ; . Also, Lakewood is unique. No other NJ school District has: (a) such a rapidly-growing school population, (b) such a high level of impoverished student population in both the nonpublic and public school sectors, and (c) such a high ratio of nonpublic-to-public Title 1 funding entitlement: 76.65% NPS to 23.35% PS, more than 3-to-1. If Lakewood’s schools were not failing, and the District’s total Title 1 allocation of $15,433,376 was proportionately divided, the eligible NPS students would receive $11,829,683 in Title 1, and the eligible PS students would receive $3,603,693.

4. Four out of Lakewood’s 6 public schools are failing. Lakewood High School has the lowest graduation rate in all of New Jersey.

5. In the April 2012 BOE elections, a slate of tax advocates gained control of the Board under the guise of seeking long overdue school reform, an end to pervasive corruption, and more and better special education and related services for eligible, struggling students. Since the elections, however, the new majority has shown its true colors. The facts show that most (not all), are driven by a short-sighted, single-minded agenda of budget slashing, with little concern for genuine educational reform or for addressing the needs of children with special needs, and even less concern for transparency and accountability. No structural educational reforms and no significant personnel changes have been introduced; it’s business as usual. Even worse, several District staff members previously complicit in the culture of impunity have been retained, some were even promoted.

Since 4 out of 6 Lakewood public schools are failing, 30% of this year’s Title 1 allocation—$4,630,012 of the $15,433,376 — must be taken ‘off-the-top’ and reserved for fixing the failing schools. Furthermore, since Lakewood won approval for a ‘school-wide’ program, the reserved funds do not have to benefit a targeted population of educationally disadvantaged children. Worse, the funds are fungible—they can be used to supplant, rather than supplement, the District’s school budget. In other words, the taxpayers are the real beneficiaries, not the educationally disadvantaged students, nor even the general student population. Small wonder that parents and other stakeholders were never consulted on the ‘school-wide’ program, though such consultations are mandated by law. Read full report with footnotes here.

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  1. “in other words, the taxpayers are the real beneficiaries” and not the schools! Well, it’s about time! Kol hakavod to Carl, Chesky, Yoni, Lee, etc…. (moderated) Thank you BOE members for thinking of taxpayer first.

  2. Sure makes a compelling argument that the average citizen should not be elected to school boards, rather educators who understand what needs to be done to help the children learn and become productive.

  3. The PUBLIC schools should be the beneficiary along with the programs for the special needs children in those schools. I myself went to private school and my parents had to pay for everything….. I nor they ever received any kind of entitlement to reduce the cost.

  4. Maybe its time for members of the BOE be comprised of those who ae actually interested in the PUBLIC school system AND have children in the system instead of those with an agenda in the opposite direction!

  5. The only solution to saving Lakewood’s schools is for the State to take over. We’ve been saying this for many years. Things have gotten worse rather than better.

  6. Elected officials do not run a school district. They are relatively minor players in the larger scheme compared to the power of the superintendent and her cabinet, and the principals. They have the knowledge, responsibility and authority to initiate changes and policies for the BOE to approve. As long as professional school leaders have no connection with the social, economic and political vitality of this town, we are doomed for failure.

    The solution to the tuition, state funding and educational opportunity problems are on record inside our organization. I have submitted scores of proposals, many of which I have made public, backed by constitutional, statutory and regulatory citations, on record, inside our organization over the last several years. However, no person in our administration over the last ten understood our community or concerns.

    We can get every special education child in town services. There is no need to squabble over Title I.

    The official vision of Lakewood School District is, “Commitment to Excellence.” That is non-sense. That is the vision for Toms River, Newark, Mount Laurel, or any other district in NJ.

    The vision for Lakewood has to be, “Commitment to Education for All.”

    Only when our kids, our young people. our younger leit and their wives, are reasonably accommodated so that they also have the same opportunity for free or reduced education, like everyone else in NJ, will there be equal opportunity. Then we will be committed to excellence because we will be committed to our most excellent.

    As long as there are people who want education and they cannot access it, Lakewood will not turn around.

    It is time for change.

  7. Although i don’t agree with the writer, i do believe its not only important to cut spending (and thereby saving the taxpayers money) but those on the BOE should be capable individuals with some sort management experience.

  8. I submitted to the administration a 74 page comprehensive report on NJ state funding and school reform to in May, 2012.

    I reported that our funds will be reduced this year because the October 15 enrollment count used for determining state funding will be replaced by the average daily attendance count.

    Additionally, 2013 is only the third year this century that enrollment counts will be adjusted ( besides 2002 and 2008). Since Lakewood spends more than adequacy, it is restricted to only a 10% increase or about a $2.5 increase in funding. Still, that is $2.5 million less dollars that the taxpayers have to pay.

    If we do not act, then we will be locked in at 2013 numbers.

    I would like to see hundreds of special education students enroll for services in the place of their choice.

    Watch and see. We are going to seize the moment.

  9. I was remiss to not congratulate Rabbi Hertz for his diligence and commitment to the welfare of our children.

    The press just does not get it. Our Title I funding is tens of millions because we have about 20,000 kids who are eligible. If 15,000 kids make up 75% of the eligible students and receive their paltry share, they are not taking anything that rightly belongs to someone else, because they generated 75% of the funds.

    There is no higher calling than that of public service. May we be zoche to see justice for our citizens.

  10. The problem is when you have public school officials running the board they go on a wild spending spree because it is not thier money than they give themselves and thier cronies salary raises with huge pensions and Bonuses and instead of focusing on the childrens education they all day look to spend more and more money at the taxpayers expense

  11. on the topic of schools, i have a friend who had a third grader in one of the decent schools in town and decided that he wanted to send his new primary kid to a different school and when the school realized it they told him that his older girl cant come back to their school!i mentioned this to my rosh yeshiva and he started to shed a tear and said that his father escaped churban europe and this is where yiddishkeit is today, he then asked me is the school owner some young shnuck, he assumed it had to be! i didnt tell him this because he probably would have gotten upset but the opposite is true, the owner is not young at all, i was told the owner is actually old enough to have lived through the churban itself! can u imagine this! to throw a kid onto the streets because you are insulted that they choose a different school for this specific kid!

  12. I want to thank several of the BOE members, Isaac Zlatkine in particular, for the caring devotion they have shown to my special needs child. I think it is unfair to say that they are solely driven by budgetary concerns, when I know how much effort they put into making sure that every special needs child is appropriately placed. Their primary goal is definitely the children. Our children.

    Thank you, and may you continue to help all of Lakewood’s children.

  13. ALang wrote – “… Our Title I funding is tens of millions because we have about 20,000 kids who are eligible…”
    Well, TLS reported a short time ago there were about 5,000 kids in public school and about 22,000 kids in private schools. It was also reported that there are very few public school kids in Title I. This means that most of the private schools kids are in need of Title I schooling. As I understand it, Title I is mostly for kids who have something wrong with them, mentally and/or physically. Is that the case in Lakewood? Or is it just to send the kids to school without having to pay for their tuition? Or is it for the people associated with Title I to make $$$$$ from the state?

  14. The new BOE was elected to stop the runaway tax increases, and to even perhaps slash property taxes. They have succeeded in stopping the runaway tax increases.

    In addition, so many more children have received the services that they needed, thanks to the great work of the new BOE.

  15. wow, i never realized how selfish public school parents are! why should only they be allowed to sit on the board (or broad as public school grads would spell it)? only hey have rights?

  16. The district classified under the find and evaluate provisions of the Individual with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) about 4,322 students in need of special educational services. This includes 3,547 non-public students and 775 public students.

    Concerning the Title I, about 70% of non-public children and 74% of public school children receive reduced or free lunches. Hence, the percentages for Title I are about the same.

  17. I believe some readers have misunderstood Rabbi Hertz’s report.

    His main two points are:

    1. that the LBOE has diverted more than ½ of the Title 1 dollars allocated to Lakewood District and that are required to provide needed special help to children with problems to get the help they need; and instead cover regular school expenses in order to save homeowners taxes. These children need the funds! Their parents cannot get help for their children.

    2. that if this is allowed, the entire $140 million school budget goes down the tubes and is wasted when the incentives and amount of Title 1 funds are DEPENDENT ON CONTINUED FAILURE TO IMPROVE the education of ALL Lakewood students.

    Let’s cut other unnecessary school waste in order to cut taxes BUT not on the backs of theses special need children! PLEASE!

  18. Is someone on LBOE reviewing the HISTORY of hte progression of wage and benefit annual increases and that of expenses?

    In the private sector the range for salary increases, if given used to be 3-4% annually and in many years, not at all. I am able to view and hear about huge and unjustified increases for the Lakewood school district employees — for educators and administrtators. Would like to see the results of such a study.

    So let’s get serious about DOING ZERO BASE BUDGETING like we do in the private sector! None of this ‘let’s use up the budget at year end cause otherwise we loose it” shinanigans. Every dollar must be justified and available and based on merit and REAL need!

    Quality of our children’s education and ability to handle special needs should not need to suffer!

  19. September 11, 9:00AM wrote:

    “In addition, so many more children have received the services that they needed, thanks to the great work of the new BOE.”

    Can you back-up this claim?
    Parents of children with special needs report the opposite!

    It would be helpful if the District Superintendent can put the conflicting reports to rest by releasing the real numbers.

    How about it?

  20. #17 asked, if every kid went to public schools, how high would our taxes be?

    Our taxes would be about $61,956,724 in the aggregate, about nine million less than now. We can’t spend less than our state mandated local fair share. The difference would easily be filled by $248,283,109 of equalization aId from Trenton. Our taxes would go down. I used 2009-10 numbers.

    Considering that distance education costs almost nothing, uses the capital and human resources that we are already paying for, we would have a surplus in the hundreds of millions.

  21. to The Hat. With the new LEA contract that will most likely be ratified by the teachers over a 5 year period(which contained 2 years of pay freeze) I beleive the average raise per year calculates to about 1.9%. now when you also calculate the money that the district is saving with the increased health care costs it is even less. I do not know what is in the administrators contract, i can only speak for the teachers contract.

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