Sunday, July 28, 2013

Expanded: Education Watchdog Blasts Hoboken School District for Pre-K Wait List By Charles Hack/The Jersey Journal

In the landmark Abbott v. Burke case there was a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court directing the State of New Jersey to provide full-day kindergarten and well-planned, high quality preschool education for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the State’s poorest urban communities. The Abbott rulings establish key program quality standards, including an age-appropriate curriculum linked to the State’s content standards, small class sizes and certified teachers. Over 40,000 3- and 4-year-old children are now enrolled in preschool in the 31 urban school districts known as Abbotts, and there is a growing body of research demonstrating significant learning gains that these children sustain into their early elementary years. Hoboken is an Abbott district. 

Research shows that children who have high-quality early learning experiences fare better in school and in life. These children are less likely to drop out, repeat grades, need special education, or get into trouble with the law. Helping all children start school ready to learn is critical to their future success and to the well being of society. It is also essential for closing gaps in achievement among low-income students and students of color.

Despite the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling and what research tells us, there is a current controversy occurring in the Hoboken School District with the creation of a waiting list of over 70 children for free, quality pre school education. The creation of a waiting list and apparent "reinterpretation" of state law and disregard of research findings by district leadership seems to have occurred with no protest by the Kids First Board majority. As the following story points out however, there are a growing number of concerned parents, community members, and children advocates who are concerned about the formation of this waiting list, its legality, and the consequences of either no or costly pre school education for the 3 and 4 year old children of Hoboken.  -Dr. Petrosino 

HOBOKEN – Despite the state mandate that requires the Hoboken Public Schools to provide free pre-kindergarten classes for every 3- and 4-year-old in the city, dozens of parents have received letters saying they have been placed on a waiting list.
"That's shocking," said Sharon Krengel, spokeswoman for the Education Law Center in Newark, a group that advocates for school funding and equal educational opportunities for all students.
By law Hoboken -- one of 31 so-called "Abbott" district schools that receive special state funding -- must provide pre-K classes for all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds, Department of Education spokesman Michael Yaple said.
"A Supreme Court ruling made it clear there can be no waiting lists...If additional parents want their children to attend pre-school, funding and space must be provided to accommodate the children, otherwise their rights to attend the program are being violated." -David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center.  
Roughly 70 students were put on a waiting list earlier this month after being registered for placement, school officials said.

This issue was first reported by the Hoboken Reporter on June 28. For that story please CLICK HERE

NJ Law, Pre School and Abbott Districts: CLICK HERE 

In addition to the Education Law Center, the Hoboken Reporter, and the Jersey Journal, a number of local and state elected officials have commented about this issue: CLICK HERE

In typical fashion of a reactionary school district, I suspect a solution will be found fairly soon as this issue gains increasing public attention. One must wonder however if making mandatory accommodations for 3 and 4 year olds only when public reaction gains attention by bloggers and the press and in disregard of research and the law is an effective way to operate a school district and to be responsive to our community's most precious resource.