New Jersey is in a Holding Pattern!
When I fly, I always look forward to the pilot’s announcement, “Please return to your seats and secure your seat belts as we begin to descend.” What I do not enjoy hearing is, “The control tower informs us that we are in a holding position and unable to land.” Unfortunately on my most recent flight, the plane’s landing was delayed because of a holding situation.
I know you are wondering what a plane’s holding position has to do with my Executive View article. Well it’s pretty simple.
This whole concept of a plane’s holding position is exactly the same as the holding position the State of New Jersey is experiencing.
Let’s look at the major issues on hold in New Jersey.
The Fiscal 2016-2017 budget signed into law provided minimal additional funding for public school systems. The School Funding Reform Act provisions were underfunded by more than $1 Billion.
School district financial support required by the School Funding Reform Act passed in 2008 has never been fully provided and has been woefully underfunded in the ensuing years’ state budgets since its enactment.
Instead of listening to the "Battle of the Bands" at the local high school, we are experiencing the battle of school funding plans between the Governor and the Senate President. NJASA supports the analysis of the impact of state funding for school systems and their communities with expectations that a more equitable system can be devised and that full financial support required by the school funding law can ultimately be achieved for New Jersey communities and their students.
The Transportation Trust Fund, established to finance the cost of “planning, acquisition, engineering, construction, reconstruction, repair, resurfacing, and rehabilitation of the State’s transportation system” is on hold with no closure in sight.
This lack of action is causing several ripple effects from restrictions on the state budget, to no movement for advancing payments to the pension system, and to the redesign of health care costs.
Public pension funds are in a precarious state due to underfunding by many Governors over the decades. It has been easy for both political parties to continually kick the pension payment down the road. However, our elected leaders simply cannot apply the same approach to health benefits.
We have all witnessed New Jersey’s lagging economy, the disappearance of surplus monies from districts, the continual reliance on having parents/guardians pay more for extra services within the districts, and the growth of education foundations.
Student Performance Standards/Assessments/High School Graduation Requirements
For the good of the cause, we can all agree that assessment is an integral component of the teaching and learning process. It takes many forms beginning with astute teachers monitoring the daily performance of their students in class and raising to “high stakes” assessment by the states. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and states and districts await implementing regulations from the federal Department of Education. While well-intended, NCLB’s "one-size-fits-all" approach was unrealistic at best and punitive at worst. It took years of significant work in the educational community and within Congress, but in the last weeks of 2015, President Obama signed into law ESSA and shifted greater authority back to the states for determining accountability for student performance and teacher effectiveness.
NJASA endorses high standards and assessments that measure how students are achieving them and supports the effort to use 21st Century learning techniques in assessing student understanding. We, as education practitioners, advocate that every New Jersey student is truly ready for a career or post-secondary education following graduation.
The New Jersey State Board of Education has authorized the requirement that high school students demonstrate proficiency on PARCC assessments in Algebra I and 10th grade English language arts beginning with the class of 2021. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) provides valuable data that has been unavailable through prior state student assessment programs and student score reports are now more informative for both parents and educators. Much discussion and debate lies ahead to determine if these are the most appropriate requirements or if the state will take a different path in determining what “college and career” ready truly means for New Jersey students. We look forward to the conversation about defining graduation requirements that are more meaningful to students as they determine their personal paths forward after high school.
The next 15 months will prove to be pivotal times for all New Jersey residents. There is no crystal ball to predict what policy is coming next from our elected officials and how their decisions will affect New Jersey public education and local school districts. The tenets and goals of the NJASA Vision 2020 plan will guide our discussion and the efforts of our organization and members as we carefully examine proposals to shape public education for New Jersey students.
Collectively, all these issues have the potential to enhance, change, and/or erode the course and funding of education in New Jersey. Again, we are on hold with no closure in sight until maybe January 2018.
There is one thing that is not on hold - school bells. They are ringing again!
Together, NJASA, school leaders, parents and involved stakeholders will continue to move forward in spite of these challenges and others - always with the goal of having the best interest of our students.