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Why to vote no on the school referenda

Posted by edison1205 on January 23, 2010


I am going to be voting against both school referenda that are up for a vote on January 26, and urge my fellow Edison voters to do the same.  In their analysis of the matter available here, I do not believe that the Board of Education has made a good enough, or believable enough case, for either referendum to pass, so I will choose no.

First: a few facts. Edison Township as a general rule delivers higher student outcomes at a lower per-student cost than other districts.  The statewide average cost per pupil in districts of Edison’s size is $13,539, while Edison’s cost per pupil is $11,576.  See here at page 483.

Despite this lower spending, we have better outcomes.  Our students’ graduation rate is higher than statewide averages, they consistently outperform statewide averages on proficiency tests, and the high school students do better on SAT scores.

Of course, there are areas for improvement.  We are slightly worse off, especially in SAT scores, when weighed against other districts of comparable wealth as Edison.  And four of our schools did not pass at least one of the 41 indicators in the No Child Left Behind reviews.  Edison High, John Marshall Elementary and Washington Elementary each missed one of 41 and John Adams Middle School missed three of 41.

Despite reasonable returns for our money, there are several decisions of the board of education that are worthy of criticism.

One has to do with paying two superintendents while only receiving services from one and the resulting litigation.

Another is the recent fiasco involving the school employees arrested for the abuse and resale of drugs, purchased apparently with a taxpayer-funded prescription drug plan that did not control the number of pills that beneficiaries could get.  And the squabble over who gets credit for the arrests.  [Also see DEA press release].

Even if you disagree with these administrator actions, as we do, that’s not a valid reason to punish the school students by denying them educational services they need.  But they do call into question the judgment and believability of claims made by the board of education members and administrators who want you to vote for this referendum, as to whether our students need everything that is proposed in Tuesday’s vote.

While some schools clearly need some improvements, and some need expansion, the claim to all $166.8 million in funding is not supported.

The estimates of an increasing student population are unsupported.  Edison’s government allowed crazy amounts of new construction in the 80s but all the factions on the council are united in opposing any new residential construction.  See here at page 40.

More disturbingly, the BOE cannot substantiate its claim that state aid will be available over the life of these bonds to help pay them off.  The way it works is this: Edison BOE issues the bonds and promises to pay the bondholders in full.  There is collateral for this promise, like a mortgage.

Next, the State promises to pay the BOE the stated share for these payments.  But for this, there is no collateral, no binding and secured promise that the state will own up to its obligations, or maintain existing funding levels.  It’s up to the Legislature every year.  The BOE’s failure to get an ironclad funding promise binding future state budget years was irresponsible.

Finally, in December 2008, a $57 million bond – about a third of the size of this one –  failed by a vote of 3,620 to 1,876 and the same bond had been rejected in April 2008 by a vote of 3,983-3,644.

As we understand it, under state regulations, if the Board was dissatisfied with the rejection of 2 identical school facilities projects within a 3 year period, they had 90 days to file an appeal with the State to override the voters’ decision.  If the Board felt the rejection threatened thorough and efficient education in the district, we feel the Board was duty-bound to pursue the appeal.

No appeal was filed.  So the claims that all the projects up for a vote represent a true “need” instead of something else, ring hollow.

We look forward to the Board formulating a more responsible plan, along the lines of what had been proposed twice in 2008, and making a proposal that’s clear about true current and future need, has guarantees about state support, and hopefully is held during the annual school election.

Additional resources:

http://ems.gmnews.com/news/2010-01-20/Front_Page/Edison_BOE_to_try_again_with_bond_referendum.html

http://myetea.org/ETEA_Update_Nov_Dec_2009.pdf

Whether you agree with our views our not, please turn out and have your say.  Here’s how:

Find your election district using this election district map and then go to the right polls.

Polling places will be open from 12:00 noon to 9:00 PM, on Tuesday, January 26, 2010.

District No.                 Polling Place Location

1, 43, 68                      Martin Luther King School 285 Tingley Lane

2, 72                            J. Madison Intermediate School 838 New Dover Rd.

3, 5, 30, 71                  Woodbrook School 15 Robin Road

6, 41                            Clara Barton First Aid Squad 1079 Amboy Ave.

4, 35, 40, 45, 50          Menlo Park School 155 Monroe Ave.

8, 11, 46                      H. Hoover Middle School 175 Jackson Ave.

9, 10, 51                      St. Stephen’s Church 120 Pleasant Ave.

7, 53                            James Monroe School 7 Sharp Road

13, 57                          Julius C. Engel Apartments Willard Dunham Drive

14, 15                          Lincoln School 53 Brookville Road

16, 17, 24                    Edison High School 50 Blvd. of the Eagles

18, 25, 52, 55              Washington School 153 Winthrop Road

19, 20, 47                    Benjamin Franklin School 2485 Woodbridge Ave.

21, 22, 37                    Edison First Aid #1 30 Lakeview Blvd.

23, 26, 38, 60              Lindeneau School 50 Blossom St.

27, 48, 49                    John Marshall School 15 Cornell Street

31, 56                          T. Jefferson Middle School 450 Division Street

32, 44, 54, 69, 78        J.P. Stevens High School 855 Grove Ave.

36, 42                          NJ Home for Disabled Vets 132 Evergreen Road

33, 65, 70                    J. Adams Middle School 1081 New Dover Road

34, 58, 62, 68 , 73              W. Wilson Middle School 50 W. Wilson Drive

64, 66, 67                    Minnie Veal Comm. Center 1070 Grove Ave.

12, 61, 74                    Grace Reformed Church 2815 Woodbridge Ave.

28, 59, 75                    Dorothy Dwral Comm. Center 328 Plainfield Ave.

63                                Middlesex County College West Hall, Mill Road

29, 39                          Municipal Complex 100 Municipal Blvd.

76, 77                          Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 418 Talmage Road

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2 Responses to “Why to vote no on the school referenda”

  1. Anonymous said

    You list district 68 twice. It should be district 62 at Woodrow Wilson.

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