Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hoboken Board of Education's 2013-14 Budget Passes 6-3

Photo Credit: Mark Mauer/The Jersey Journal
The Hoboken Board of Education passed the 2013-14 school budget by a 6-3 vote. All 6 "yes" votes were cast by the political group known as "Kids First." A previous motion passed last year by Kids First 5-4 took the right to vote for the school budget away from the public provided the new budget contained an increase of 2% or less than the previous year's budget. Even though the 2013-14 budget was more than 2% of the 2012-2013 budget, the public was not allowed to vote since a waiver was requested and granted to the Board of Education by the State of New Jersey. 

How they voted: 
Yes: Leon Gold (Board President), Ruth McAllister (Vice-President), Thomas Kluepfel, Rose Marie Markle, Jean Marie Mitchell, Irene Sobolov
No: Peter Biancamano, Carmelo Garcia, Frances Rhodes-Kearns

1) early April 2009 all members of Kids First vote no on a $59.1 million dollar budget claiming the budget was too high. 
2) late April 2009 Kids First wins BOE election. "Fiscal responsibility" a major part of their platform. 
3) February 2012 Kids First introduces a motion to take the right to vote for the school budget away from the public provided the new budget is an increase of 2% of less than the previous year's budget. 
4) Late Winter 2013 a request for a waiver to exceed the 2013-2014 by more than 2% but to not have a public vote is requested. Waiver granted by the State of New Jersey. 
5) March 27, 2013 The Hoboken Board of Education passes the $64.3 million dollar 2013-2014 budget by a vote of 6-3. All 6 Kids First members vote yes. The budget exceeds the 2% threshold by hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Some interesting aspects of the 2013-2014 budget: 

* The Board predicts a 14% jump in student enrollment despite 4 consecutive years of declining enrollment. Last year, the Board ended up predicting 100 LESS students than actually were enrolled on October 15th (official enrollment day for all districts in NJ). This over estimation of enrolled students for 2013-2014 also has the "unintended" consequence of reducing the estimated per pupil costs for next year. 

* There were at least 3 different contradictory and confusing budgets put forward to the public this year. The final number is actually $64,789,691. 

* Cost per pupil in Hoboken is the second-highest in the State of New Jersey.

* Hoboken will receive an additional 8.3% in state aid next year for a total of $10.5 million dollars (interestingly, this was not mentioned in Board President's Leon Gold's letter to the public justifying the more than 2% in crease over last year's budget). 

* Board President Gold also mentions an unexpected loss of "$450,000 in federal funds as a result of sequestration" but the federal government has not notified the district of any such loss. 

* According to a post on Hoboken 411
Gold claims the district must pay an extra “$553,000 in charter funding due to the addition of a new grade” at a charter school in Hoboken. This is also fabricated. The district must pay roughly $12,000 for each Hoboken resident (not out-of-town students) attending a charter, as was reported last year. At the very most the new 5th grade at the charter school would have 15 or 20 Hoboken kids. That’s $180,000-$240,000, not $553,000. And, of course, each kid attending a charter school who would’ve attended a public school saves the district money because charter kids cost the taxpayer $12,000 each while the district spends $24,000 on each public school kid

* According to a post on Hoboken 411
 Leon Gold’s budget breakdown says the district will pay $7.81 million next year for charter kids, up from $7.2 million this year. That’s an extra $553,000 next year to pay for the extra charter kids. But that $7.2 million was the amount budgeted a year ago–it’s not the actual figure paid out after school started and the actual number of kids was counted. According to the district website, the actual amount spent on charter school kids this year is $6.8 million. The charter schools tend to overestimate how many kids will actually attend and so the enrollment is always lower each year than projected.
* In exchange for having the 2nd highest per pupil costs in New Jersey what does the community receive? Well, it receives a high school that went from the 2nd most improved HS in New Jersey (NJ Monthly) and consecutive Bronze Medal Award Winning Awards by US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT to a school with the 2nd lowest graduation rate in Hudson County, the 10th biggest drop in graduation rate in the State of New Jersey and 3 consecutive years of not meeting minimum state and federal adequate yearly progress standards. A district with the 2nd highest number of incidents per 100 students in violence and vandalism in Hudson County and higher than districts such as Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, and Camden. A district where 90% of its students attend a school that failed to meet NCLB's "Adequate Yearly Progress" standards for 3 years in a row (less than 15% before Kids First took majority control of the Board of Education). A district with sub 400 average SAT scores in all three tested areas,  and a district with 6 Business Administrators in 5 years, 4 high school principals in 3 years, 4 superintendents in less than 4 years. A district officially declared a "District in Need of Improvement" for the first time in its history. ALL under the stewardship of the Kids First political group's leadership of the Hoboken Public Schools. Objective and independent data show conclusively that this is not the district Kids First inherited in April of 2009. Unfortunately, it is the district Kids First has overseen and administered since April of 2009. 

Interestingly, Hoboken Board of Education President Leon Gold has instituted new policies which limit questioning, dialogue and discourse from the public at its monthly meetings. The meetings are run very efficiently now although there is a fair amount of time spent clapping by the Kids First board members every chance they get to give the impression that everything is going well. 

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