Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula is introducing two bills that would, in effect, create countywide school districts by centralizing public school administration and governance.

The bills resurrect the school regionalization issue by focusing the effort on eliminating administrative costs. Students would remain in the schools they are in now.

What the press release glosses over is the potential effect on how school taxes would be apportioned, and that is really the biggest  and stickiest issue. If school consolidation and regionalization were just about eliminating administrative jobs, it likely would have been done long ago.

Here is what Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex) had to say in a press release issued Monday:

 “New Jersey taxpayers can no longer afford to pay hefty salaries for hundreds of superintendents and assistant superintendents.  “We need a new and sensible approach to save taxpayers’ money, and these bills could go a long way toward streamlining expenses and cutting costs without hurting education.”

One bill (A-2622) would ask voters in November 2011 whether to establish a county administrative school district to centralize public school governance and operations at the county level.

The other bill (A-2623) would provide a governance structure for counties in which voters approve establishing a county administrative school district.

“New Jersey’s system of 600 school districts each governed by their superintendents is a relic that we can no longer afford,” Chivukula said. “Still, these bills don’t force a change upon anyone. They simply give voters a choice to try something different to save money.”

Chivukula noted the Office of the State Auditor in 2006 estimated it costs taxpayers about $553 million statewide for the salary and benefits for superintendents, assistant superintendents, school business administrators and information technology coordinators.

“We have potential to save a lot of money for taxpayers by streamlining this system,” Chivukula said.

The details of the bills have not yet been posted.  The press release provided the following outline:

If voters approved a county administrative school district, a county school board would be established and a chief school administrator would be appointed by the governor, and they would be responsible for supervising county district operations.

 A board of school estimate would develop a county administrative school district budget and would determine the amount of school taxes necessary for the operation of the district. 

The law would allow local boards of education to remain in place, but these boards would only be advisory.

The county board appointed by either the county executive or freeholder director, with advice and consent from the freeholder board.

Local school district administrative and supervisory personnel positions would be abolished.

The law also would provide that students remain in the school in which they were enrolled before the establishment of the county administrative school district.

“Nothing in this bill would hurt public education,” Chivukula said. “As a matter of fact, it may help by freeing up more money for the classroom. The only thing this bill would do is bring some reason to a complicated and outdated system.”

 

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