Friday, August 20, 2010

Fixing New Jersey's Education System

Dr. David C. Verducci, superintendent of Glen Rock Public Schools, is yet another worker in New Jersey who has dealt with Governor Chris Christie’s budget cuts in the state’s attempt to lower the deficit. Christie’s cuts in funding have made it difficult for many of the school districts in New Jersey, but Dr. Verducci shared some of his ideas on improving education in New Jersey with Christie (link below). Here are some of my suggestions for improving the New Jersey education system.

A school is a business. Students are customers, teachers are employees, superintendents are CEOs and the school’s money is invested in other businesses in hopes to make more money. Schools are stockholders just like any other business and there’s money to be made with investing, and there’s money to lose. Unfortunately, your bank account wasn’t the only thing that took a hit with the recession; your child’s elementary school bank account did too. The only difference between your boss’s business and a superintendent’s business is that there will always be customers for the superintendent’s business, it’s required by law. If a school is going to invest its money, it should be in conservative stocks or mutual funds where an economical crash won’t doom the community. The point is that schools all across America have faced difficulty lately, but if everybody could run their schools in a more efficient manner, school districts like Dr. Verducci’s wouldn’t be in such frenzy.

Statistics have shown that Glen Rock School District spends about $16,387 on each student (1). Across the river in Pennsylvania, the Pennsbury School District manages to spend $12,056 on each student (1). When you do the math, 3 students in New Jersey go to school for the same amount of money as 4 Pennsylvania’s students. The difference may seem slight, but not when there are thousands of students. So what is Pennsylvania getting right? In Bucks and Montgomery County, where the populous is similar to New Jersey, school districts are beasts. Graduating classes of these districts are hitting close to 1,000 students. Across the river, bulk is better. The more students there are, the less they can spend on each student. It’s the same reason why buying a dozen doughnuts is cheaper than buying eleven. Plus, the larger schools offer more opportunities at cheaper prices than smaller schools. So combining school districts could act as a way to become more efficient.

Another alternative which is less drastic would be to lay off administrators and/or teachers. The average student to teacher ratio in New Jersey is 11:1. Is that really necessary? My high school’s ratio was 17:1 and I had never felt left out of a class conversation, even in a class of 25 students. Schools should be preparing students for college and ultimately the real world, both of which are places where individuals are not spoon-fed by their superiors. This recommendation would also get a chance to get rid of copious amounts of administrators. There really is no need for four administrators at a school with less than 2,000 students, a trend many New Jersey high schools seem to follow.

If laying off teachers also sounds too radical, I’m sure that teachers and staff would rather keep their job with the same salary than to then have to file for unemployment. Dr. Verducci claims that wage freezes wouldn’t be a remedy. In reality it would help, to run efficiently we have to save a little here and a little there. If you can save a few thousand dollars on things like instruction, maintenance and transportation, the savings add up to substantial sums of money. In addition, teachers could also pay a percentage of their benefits or insurance, just like the rest of the world. You also need to take into account that teachers are working nine months out of the year. Many of my former teachers have summer jobs where they could tack on another $10,000 to their already generous salary. These suggestions would definitely be a start to creating a more efficient school system where we could be more bang per buck.

Dr. Verducci's Letter:




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