Thursday, October 8, 2009

Consolidation and the Race for Governor

In the most recent Eagle, Ray Pinney asks Chris Christie and Governor Jon Corzine about consolidation/regionalization. See below for each candidate's response
(taken from http://www.njsba.org/PI/candinterview.html?w=295)

Most governors have looked at regionalization and consolidation of school districts and municipalities as a way of reducing property taxes. While there have been numerous proposals to force regionalization, they all pretty much fell by the wayside. Why do you think they have failed to move forward?

Corzine - We really haven’t seen “forced regionalization” here in New Jersey. What we have seen are districts unable to disentangle themselves from established relationships that no longer work for their children or their taxpayers. And that is one of the reasons that other districts are reluctant to enter into these regionalizations or consolidations in the first place.

As the executive county superintendents have been meeting with their regional task forces, it has become very clear that there are obstacles to regionalization in law and regulation that have to be addressed before people are willing to consider it as an option. Each district is different, but there are taxation issues, debt service issues, personnel retention issues, governance issues and educational continuity issues that have to be considered. And we are committed to doing what we can to remove those obstacles.

Let me add that despite the conventional wisdom that regionalization is the third rail in New Jersey education policy because of our strong home rule tradition, we have found over the past year that there are many people out there who are expressing a willingness to at least take a look at these proposals. In these tough economic times and with the tax burdens families face, people are starting to ask whether a one-school district with 100 students makes sense from an educational or an economic perspective.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen everywhere, but I think you are going to see small districts coming together in very creative ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the education services they provide to their children. And of course, nothing is going to happen without the approval of the voters.

Christie - I think that we should encourage shared services, and we should encourage consolidation or regionalization where communities involved think it makes sense. But I have to tell you, the idea of having the Department of Education or Department of Community Affairs sitting down in Trenton and deciding for themselves which school districts or which towns should be merged or consolidated just gives me a chill up my spine, because I don’t think they’ll do it right. I leave it in the hands of the taxpayers who are paying the bills. It should be studied by people who are interested in looking at the regional approach or consolidation, but I’m not somebody who thinks Trenton should be forcing that down people’s throats.
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