EDUCATION

NJASA Chief Open to Task Force Recommendations, But Firmly Opposes School Vouchers

In a 239-page report, a task force has recommended over 400 changes to improve education in the Garden State. Recommendations run the gamut from school nurse training to what kind of paper districts should use. To discuss the recommendation, Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor sat down with Richard Bozza, Exec. Director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

According to Bozza, the fact that the state is attempting to eliminate or cut down on needless reporting activities is a step in the right direction.

“So our commission and our governor are really committed to taking a look at what’s unneeded and what’s unnecessary …. so that we can focus on what kids are learning, how well they’re learning and doing the job that needs to be done.”

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At more than 400, the amount of recommended changes may appear daunting. “So when you see that we’re getting rid of or attempting to get rid of 428 regulations or modify them plus another 46 statute changes, we can just imagine the kind of reporting that goes on that’s necessary as well.”

Bozza says he’s in favor of changes that shift the accountability system back to the school districts.

“We’re back to a situation where the districts and the chief education officer and superintendent of schools are saying these things are accomplished and of course there are inspections periodically but the same level of reporting and inspection that was there before,” said Bozza. “[It] makes sense to us to get that out of the way but there is still much work to be done.”

Some of the recommendations set forth by the task force struck some as unnecessary, like the kind of paper districts should choose. Those kinds of regulations have not saved money, as far as Bozza can tell.

“That’s the kind of micromanaging that we’re trying to get away from. we have a cap on school expenditures we have a 2 percent cap and that cap is in place and districts are following it and so I don’t think we need to take some of these minute financial considerations into account.”

Last week, State Sen. Ron Rice called for and end to two decades of state control over three urban districts. “For 20 years, residents in Newark, Jersey City and Paterson have been unable to determine their own destiny when it comes to public education,” said Rice.

Leaders in those districts are urging for for the state to return those school to local control.

Bozza said he understands Sen. Rice’s concern and supports local citizens controlling their school district but wants to make certain that the time is right. “We certainly support an accountability system that would truly validate whether the students and the district and all of its factors are ready to go back to local control.”

One thing that Bozza is not in favor of is the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would allow for school vouchers.

“The reason we don’t support that is because we still don’t have funding to support a law that was passed just 5 years ago, overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and Republicans. And now as we face the news today of a significant budgetary shortfall in the last quarter, it’s not time to divert tax dollars into other areas other than public schools where we can spend them on technology and improve learning for kids already in the public.”