The New Year brings significant challenges for our state’s Chief Education Officers in serving their communities. This year’s state budget deficit has been projected to reach $1.2 billion by June 30, 2009. The next budget year provides an even greater challenge, as the revenue shortfall will likely reach $5 billion. The economic downturn and resultant plunge in state revenue collection will cause all levels of government to assess spending practices and to re-prioritize the services provided to New Jersey residents. Reduction in many services and elimination of others seems the likely outcome, along with probable personnel reductions or staff furloughs. This grim reality will cause the Governor and state legislators to scrutinize all areas of the state budget, including the decision to fund the new preschool education initiative and provide full support for the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, the new state funding formula for schools.
School superintendents, the Chief Education Officers of their districts, operate one of the largest organizations in their respective communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. As Chief Education Officers, they are ultimately responsible for moving education forward through instructional leadership - providing the highest quality education; establishing and preserving the financial stability and integrity of the district; ensuring the health and safety of children; maintaining the morale and retention of teachers and staff, and providing the overall oversight of facilities in their respective school district. Chief Education Officers work cooperatively with their colleagues and municipal counterparts to share services and resources. Their experience and fiscal leadership will be ever more critical in meeting the challenges to be faced during the remainder of this school year and the next. There will not be uncomplicated or easy solutions to these extraordinary difficulties. One thing is certain, however. Chief Education Officers and their support staff will once again demonstrate determination and resourcefulness in their work, just as they have during the many years that promised resources have not materialized. These leaders will maintain the vision for the education process in their respective districts and continue to realize improvement in student outcomes. Despite differences in district size, demographics, and other factors, Chief Education Officers have one common goal – to move education forward for the betterment of New Jersey’s children. We count on them to do so during the difficult times ahead and we must give them our support.