Higher education in New Jersey has been undergoing changes with the $750 million bond issue and the Rutgers-Rowan merger. A recent appointment to the Rutgers University board has also raised some eyebrows. Martin Perez, president of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, is only the second Latino member in the history of the Board of Governors, after senatorial courtesy prevented his appointment a year ago. Perez told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the controversy was unnecessary but that he doesn’t take it personally. He also expressed concern for the state’s urban education system and said there should be more accountability regarding education funding.
Perez said he doesn’t know why his appointment was blocked last year, but isn’t looking for answers and doesn’t take the decision personally. “It has to do with politics of New Jersey,” he said. “Now that I was appointed, to try to do the best job that I can do.”
The Christie administration has said Perez’s appointment to the Rutgers board adds to the university. Perez said he was a student and professor at Rutgers, lives in New Brunswick and has a daughter who attends the university so he will be able to make contributions to the school from different angles.
When asked if the university system understands, appreciates and addresses the needs of the Latino community, Perez said, “Well many people do but I think it’s important that we have a representation in public structure of the university and the whole state.”
Perez said there are serious problems with the public education system. “The schools in the urban areas are not working. So that’s part of the problem that we have,” he said. “We have to have better education not just in the higher education, but in the education from K-12.”
According to Perez, money is available for public education. “We have to make sure that the people who use the money are accountable and I think that we have a good commissioner who understands the situation now and is trying to do a good job to make sure that we reform education in New Jersey,” he said.
Reform is needed, according to Perez, to ensure children in all parts of the state get an equal education. “We have two systems of education — one in the urban areas and one in the suburban areas. The suburban areas are excellent. We have some of the best schools in the country. But in the urban areas, we have some of the worst in the country,” he said.
Perez added that Latinos and African-Americans are overrepresented in the bad schools and underrepresented in the good schools. “We have to change that,” he said.
To make changes, Perez said there must be accountability with education spending. “Thanks to the Supreme Court now we can have access to the proper funding, but now we have to make sure that … we are accountable, we have a transparent process of making sure that the people who are using the funding give us a good education,” he said.