Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yes, there's bloat in NJ's schools

It is time that voters in NJ and elsewhere realize that throwing money at a problem is not always the solution. Christie is attacking a sacred cow, but I believe the citizens of NJ now realize it is the unions that are the roadblocks to a better education for their children.

After this runup, outlays are now a whopping $16,000 per student, nearly 60 percent above the national average. Jersey already was a leader in this spending category back in 2001; the spending spree has widened the gap, at great taxpayer cost.

There's been little educational payoff. Performance on national education-assessment tests has been a mixed bag. On crucial eighth-grade reading tests, for instance, the percentage of Jersey students scoring at or above proficient in 2009 was just 42 percent, up slightly from 38 percent in 2005.

But the spending has deepened the state's budget and economic problems. Jersey now has the highest combined state and local tax burden in the country -- yet has been in an almost perpetual budget crisis since 2001.

To fund state spending, Govs. James McGreevey and Jon Corzine hiked taxes by billions of dollars -- devastating the state's economy. Jersey has had no private job growth in the last decade and missed out even on the 2004-'06 expansion that most other states enjoyed.

But the tax hikes didn't solve the budget crisis. The key reason: As the above data suggest, the spending hasn't slowed.

If anything, the numbers suggest that Christie's approach, which is to finally start weaning local schools off continual increases in state aid, is the only way to bring spending in line.

In response, the teacher unions (and allied school boards) are trying to prompt a crisis. Most locals have refused to renegotiate their contracts with wage and benefit concessions -- though Christie has pointed out that if teachers merely accepted a one-year wage freeze and a moderate contribution toward health costs, school districts wouldn't have to make further cuts.

The unions hope, instead, to present voters with a choice between "devastating" spending cuts or property-tax increases.

Voters shouldn't buy it. One look at hiring and spending in Jersey suggests its schools are far from starved for resources.
Read NY Post article here.

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