ARCHIVE FOR NOVEMBER 2006
INSTITUTE RELEASES EVALUATION ON SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM (11/7/2006)
The Rutgers-Newark Institute on Education Law and Policy today released its report on the pilot program of the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. The program was conducted by the New Jersey Department of Education.
New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program: Pilot Evaluation and Policy Analysis looks at the Department’s five-year interdistrict public school choice pilot (which has been extended to seven years), in which 16 school districts have volunteered to enroll students from outside their borders in exchange for additional state aid. The report discusses the program’s size, scope and funding; its fiscal, educational and racial/ethnic impact; issues that have arisen during pilot implementation; and school choice policy issues, including the choice provisions of No Child Left Behind and asserted constitutional rights to school choice. The Institute makes recommendations for reauthorizing the program, modifying it to achieve desired objectives, targeting it to provide greater choice opportunities to underserved groups, and establishing a consistent state policy on school choice. It concludes: “While the state’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program may be small, it has provided policy makers an opportunity to consider some very large, complex education policy issues. For that alone, the state’s pilot experience with interdistrict public school choice has been worthwhile.”
The report is available on line at the link below. Print copies are available free of charge, and may be requested by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Jersey's Interdistrict Public School Choice Program: Pilot Evaluation and Policy Analysis (11/7/2006)
SPECIAL JOINT LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES RELEASE REPORTS (11/16/2006)
On November 15, the four special joint committees created by the New Jersey State Legislature to study property tax reform issued their reports. The committees looked at issues relating to public school funding reform, government consolidation and shared services, public employee benefits reform, and constitutional reform (see recent developments dated 7/31/2006 and 8/3/2006 for more information on the committees and their members).
In all, the reports contain nearly 100 recommendations on a wide range of issues directly and indirectly relating to property tax reform. One is to eliminate the current homestead rebate with a tax credit of up to 20 percent “for as many taxpayers as resources allow”; another to “develop a property tax levy cap that does not lead to unintended, adverse consequences”; another to increase the public employee retirement age from 55 to 62.
The report of the Joint Legislative Committee on Public School Funding Reform includes 28 recommendations. They include establishing a new school aid formula based on the professional judgment panels model, providing aid to each district “based on the characteristics of the student population and the individual district’s ability to pay,” and providing a minimum amount of state aid to each school district. They also include conducting an “evaluation” of the Department of Education, implementing a “reorganization plan” for the Department, and clarifying and strengthening the authority of the Commissioner. The reports are now in the hands of Governor Corzine, Senate President Richard Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts.
2006 Special Session Joint Legislative Committee Report: Public School Funding (11/15/2006)
2006 Special Session Joint Legislative Committee Report: Government Consolidation and Shared Services (11/15/2006)
2006 Special Session Joint Legislative Committee Report: Public Employee Benefits Reform (11/15/2006)
2006 Special Session Joint Legislative Committee Report: Constitutional Reform and Citizens Property Tax Constitutional Convention (11/15/2006)
"HELPING TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS COMPETE" NOW AVAILABLE (11/30/2006)
The Center on Reinventing Public Education has issued a report that examines the impact of competition, in the form of school choice, on traditional public schools. Entitled Not the Only Game in Town: Helping Traditional Public Schools Compete, the report looks at two urban school districts—Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Dayton, Ohio—that have been affected by school choice, and describes what they are doing to help their schools compete. It concludes that public school districts’ best strategy is not to focus on choice, but to “bring a renewed sense of urgency to their efforts to help schools improve in general.”
Choice options in Milwaukee include the nation’s oldest and largest publicly funded voucher program, charter schools and intra- and inter-district choice. Dayton also has charter schools, a privately funded voucher program (as well as a publicly funded program initiated in 2006), and intra-district choice. According to the report, in 2004-05, approximately 24 percent of students in Milwaukee and 30 percent of students in Dayton attended a school outside of the traditional system.
The report’s findings include:
- The first step toward helping schools compete may involve districts simply recognizing that they are in a competitive environment, and taking nothing for granted.
- Basic strategies for helping schools compete include reaching out to parents, offering new options (responding to choice with choice), and taking the oversight of existing schools very seriously.
- As districts try to help their schools compete, misaligned “systems”—such as finance and information systems—often get in the way.
It concludes: “The research in Milwaukee and Dayton suggests that helping schools compete is about the basics: monitoring performance, making connections with parents, providing schooling options that fit different needs, and intervening in chronically low-performing schools. In some ways, separating out the pressures created by choice and looking for specific responses may be beside the point. In the end, rather than creating wholly new pressures requiring new responses, choice, especially in the broader context of enrollment decline, appears to shine a spotlight on the challenges that districts already face and the need to confront them sooner rather than later.”
Not the Only Game in Town: Helping Traditional Public Schools Compete (9/2006)