CNBNews Special Report (Part 2):
Gloucester City School Supt. Joseph Rafferty on Christie's Fairness Formula
Gloucester City School Supt. Joseph Rafferty on Christie's Fairness Formula
Related: Part 3 The Numbers Don't Lie
William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet
GLOUCESTER CITY N.J.--Gloucester City Public School Superintendent Joseph Rafferty was asked his opinion on Governor Christie's "Fairness Formula. CNBNews also asked the superintendent to compare test scores of students from previous years with those of today. Rafferty's prepared statement to both questions is below. Also included are remarks from South Jersey mayors and state officials. Gloucester City is one of 31 Abbott Districts that have received special funding from the state because of being a low-income community. Research has shown that the City has received close to $1 billion since being designated as such 22 years ago. This is the second part of a three-part series. CNB will give its opinion on Gloucester's City Abbott District on Wednesday.
Question: If given the chance what would you say to Gov. Christie’s claim that even though Gloucester City has received millions of dollars in state aid over those 22 years the students are still failing?
The New Jersey State Constitution has been the measuring stick to which the Department of Education has measured the New Jersey student’s education rights. The New Jersey Constitution guaranteed that all students in the State of New Jersey would have the right of a “thorough and efficient’ education.
In 1873 the Constitutional Commission updated the 1844 Constitution. They saw the need to improve public education. They saw it as unfair that the students who came from less fortunate economic conditions were not able to receive the education to obtain a quality life. It was believed that enhancing education was a way to improve the economy.
The members of the Constitutional Commission set wording to the New Jersey Legislature that provides for a “rudimentary” education. Members of the 1874 legislature felt that limiting what the state could provide to “rudimentary” would mean that some children would have more education opportunities than others, depending on where they lived.
The legislators argued that the state’s schools should be as good as private academies and this is the same argument today. Students should have the ability to get the same education no matter where they live. All students should have the right to the best opportunities for education. In 1874, the legislature voted to omit “rudimentary” and to say instead that the state would provide a “thorough and efficient” system of education.
When you look at the way that the Governor Christie’s “Fairness Formula” reads, it seems to me that he would like to put the word “rudimentary education” back into the New Jersey State Constitution and remove the concepts of “thorough and efficient”. I believe that not only is it the constitutionally right thing to work toward all students having an opportunity for a “thorough and efficient” education but also I believe that is the moral thing to do. The New Jersey judicial system has framed out this fundamental right in several legal rulings in which the New Jersey Department of Education is following.
In the Courier-Post on Friday July 29th Chris Christie was quoted in an article by Hannan Adely entitled “Christie hopes court will back education plan”. Governor Christie’s hope is based on the fact that as he stated, “This is a whole new court we have before us.” He believes that a flat sum of $ 6,599.00 would be paid for each student no matter where they live or the area’s income levels. He stated that the current funding formula is “scandalous”. He goes on to say that, “This is where you choose to live, you should be able to live here. It shouldn’t be property taxes that you send to 31 districts that prevents you from living in your home.” His focus is on that fact that people should have a choice to live in one place due to their economic situation or life style.
I believe that children do not have the ability to select where they live. They are anchored by their families’ ability to live within certain economic perimeters. Society has to be ready and willing to allow all students to have the same educational opportunities as any other student no matter where they live. Students who live in low socio-economic communities have the constitutional right of a “thorough and efficient” education not just a “rudimentary” education.
Question: Gloucester City has been a poor blue collar town for as long as anyone can remember. If you looked at the student's test scores before Gloucester City became an Abbott District would a person see a difference compared to test scores of today?
It is very difficult to make student cohort analysis due to the fact of the many different assessments that have been given over the years. So when you look at a class from say 1990 and compare them to year 2000 and then look at 2016 you can not make a comparison. If we look at the current student body and compare them to other districts like ourselves we are doing well.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
Below are some comments from local mayors and state officials who favor the Governor's new funding formula for schools.
East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer: “We were truly excited that Governor Christie exhibited the type of courage and forward thinking necessary to change the system in a fundamental way with his ‘Fairness Formula’. Members of my Township Committee felt strongly enough that we passed a Resolution of support of Governor Christie’s plan.”(Erin Serpico, “Like many, Gloucester County school district longs for more funding,” Inquirer, 7/15/16)
Egg Harbor Township Mayor & Former Senator Sonny McCullough: “As a result of the broken promises under our current state school funding formula, 65% of Egg Harbor Township's property taxes go to operate our local school district. I believe our students and hardworking EHT families deserve the additional aid and immediate property tax relief they would receive if Governor Christie’s Fairness Formula proposal is moved forward.” (Statement, 7/19/16)
Haddonfield Mayor Jeff Kasko: "All children, no matter where they live in New Jersey, deserve to be fully supported by state tax dollars that fund public education. By sending most of our tax dollars to just a few districts and letting others rely on local property taxes to fund their public schools, we have created an unaffordable, divided state with too many towns now out of reach for average, middle-class New Jerseyans due to sky-high property taxes. I applaud Governor Christie for proposing a way to end this funding disparity and help level the playing field for taxpayers in towns across New Jersey." (Statement, 7/7/16)
Audubon Park Mayor Lawrence Pennock:“I strongly stand behind the Governor's plan for school funding. This plan puts every child in the state on the same page. I realize this will cause problems for some districts, but bold decisions like this will continue to be needed to put our state back on the solid financial footing we need to be successful. I would hope that the political leaders in the State of New Jersey would take immediate action on this plan. I am confident that we will put both the interests of the State and the School Districts ahead of what always seems to be political games.” (Statement, 7/17/16)
Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson: “As a former President of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, I have seen firsthand how the unfair allocation of state education aid drives local property taxes particularly in rural and suburban communities throughout our state. Governor Christie’s Fairness Formula is the first serious attempt in my lifetime to challenge the status quo and end the flawed system which continues to reward failure and punishes success.” (Statement, 7/25/16)
Cape May Freeholder and Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio: “I commend Governor Christie’s efforts to deliver immediate property tax relief for middle-class families throughout Cape May County. The Fairness Formula is the only viable solution to fixing a broken school funding system which for far too long has failed students and taxpayers alike.” (Statement, 7/25/216)