Resident’s system could cost taxpayers more, not less

Iwas intrigued by a letter written by Red Bank resident Mr. James Harris this week regarding the cost of education in New Jersey. He wondered why the state needs so many superintendents when other states supposedly have more efficient systems. How could a reader not be struck by the statistic he cited: Fairfax County Schools in Virginia – where his daughter teaches, he wrote – has only “one superintendent for over 200 schools.”

Here is the reality I discovered when I went to the Fairfax school system Web site to learn more: first, Fairfax County spent $2.2 billion on education this year at a cost of $13,407 per pupil. This is higher than New Jersey’s average comparative cost per pupil last year – $12,248, and certainly higher than most Monmouth County school systems. Yes, this Virginia school system has one superintendent for a huge school system. But it also has three deputy superintendents and eight “clusters,” each of which has its own “assistant” superintendent and deputy and large administrative staff, not to mention numerous other administrative departments including dozens of other assistant superintendents who don’t even manage schools, but head up communications, legal and recruitment departments, to name a few.

I encourage all readers to carefully examine Trenton’s school funding policies more closely. What is needed is a more equitable manner to fund schools, not a knee-jerk reaction to centralize and regionalize. As we see in Virginia, there’s more to the numbers than appear. The system Mr. Harris extols could actually cost New Jersey taxpayers more, not less.
Katy Badt Frissora
Fair Haven