It was one of those surreal moments I had…finding myself rhetorically asking the question ‘so, what took so long???’
The Governor was in Haddonfield to sign legislation eliminating non-operating school districts. That’s another one of those State House-jargon phrases which basically means districts that have no schools. Apparently there are 26 of them throughout New Jersey. In some cases, those districts have only one student who they send to a nearby district which is equipped with an elementary, middle and in some cases even a high school.
But the non-operating district may still have a school board, may still have a part-time Business Ddministrator and more than likely someone there needs to file annual reports. In other words: a layer of bureacracy.
Well, with a sweep of his pen the Governor eliminated those districts and presumably the overhead that goes along with them. 13 will be dissolved this year and another 13 next fiscal year. So good riddance.
New Jersey has 566 municipalities and 616 school districts. How is that possible you ask??? Good question. I have no answer for you. And New Jerseyans wonder why their property taxes are high. Well, layers of local government, particulary school administration, make costs go up and stay up.
But here is the flip side…so that I can also show myself to be the unbiased reporter that I am. Every time New Jersey tried to get rid of some of these districts ( going back to 1969 ) there was pushback. Yes, part of that is due to people trying to preserve their jobs but there is more to it than that. And here is the crux of the complicated dichotomy between home rule, and protecting state taxpayers.
New Jersey has good schools. Great schools, actually. Test scores and graduation rates reflect that, particularly in the suburbs. And people move here for a nice environment to raise their kids. Not only are good schools key to that lure, but people also like their nice towns with their own police forces and small city halls. You don’t wanna mess with that too much. Bceause once you take away what is appealing about moving the fam out to the garden State suburbs…people could stop doing it. Then there wouldn’t be any tax dollars to argue about.
Just something to think about, although eliminating districts with no schools is probably tough to argue with.