Interesting article on an inner-city public school district (in lovely Camden, NJ)

Hugh Myron's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 3,459

Came across this while reading the news:

Some key highlights:

"This school year Camden spent $27,500 per pupil, $9,000 more than the state average, to educate a district of 15,000 students, about 11,700 of them attending district public schools. Twenty-three of the district's 26 schools appear on the state's list of the 70 lowest-performing schools, but the city will spend almost as much per pupil in the current school year as the state's highest-spending districts, Avalon and Stone Harbor, spent in 2012-13. Camden made headlines earlier this year when the superintendent said only three high school students of the 882 who took the SAT in 2011-12 tested "college ready.""

Noting that it costs more to educate students in a high-poverty district,

"Using a weighted per-pupil formula that takes into account special-needs costs, Camden spent $11,034 for the 2013-14 school year, only slightly higher than the state weighted per-pupil average of $10,749, according to ELEC."

Thought this was interesting as I feel like people are perpetually complaining that schools are underfunded. I'm sure there are some cases where that's very true, but I thought it was shocking that a school district in one of the worst cities in America is actually funded quite while, albeit terribly managed.

Curious what WSO's opinions are on this since discussion here is (usually?) more intellectual and informed than the comments on the average article...

Comments (11)

May 14, 2014

I wouldn't be surprised if the bulk of those costs went to the helicopter gunships needed to provide security in that war zone.

Water is wet, sky is blue. The solution to schools is always to spend more.

May 14, 2014

Throwing money at it will not fix the education issue. Having education as a priority in the home is the first step, better quality teachers and school management would be the second step. Education system is in need of mass reform not just to keep pace with other countries but just to provide quality education to those who can't afford to go to private school.

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May 14, 2014

Throwing money at it will not fix the education issue. Having education as a priority in the home is the first step

I agree completely, but is there anything that can be done to help this? Or is this particular generation a lost cause?

I agree with that idea too Anthony, that the strongest performers do need to be isolated from the warzones so that they at least have a chance. Honestly I think the violent and unruly kids should be expelled but then that just puts them on the streets to wreak more havoc. What ever happened to shit like reform school? When did the power shift from teacher to student? I bet if a kid were being a disrespectful little shit in the 40's/50's he'd get smacked and told to sit down; now schools have security guards that get their skulls fractured (another Philly-area incident) by the students.

All of these questions are rhetorical - just random shit I think about when overly-caffeinated and bored at my desk.

May 14, 2014

I read a couple articles recently complaining about charter schools and how they skim the best inner city kids and leave the public schools with the garbage. As I think about this, I think it is genius and the best way to do things. Better to save the few with potential vs. letting them go down with the ship.

May 14, 2014

Yeah, the issue that liberals (apologize for name calling) fail to understand regarding the schools is that they are bad because they are unruly and unsafe. This is a combination of factors (single parent household, poverty, poor infant nutrition, etc), but the end result is good teachers either avoid these schools or burn out. Kids that actually want to learn cannot because of the environment or they get pressured into bad behavior. So you have this vortex of bad results.

IMO, end the war on drugs and increase minimum wage to something reasonable. Combine this with intense birth control training and education. I would go so far as to even pay students to not get pregnant and use contraceptives. Whatever the upfront cost would easily be offset by the savings to the taxpayer and society.

That and have a triage approach to inner city schools. You need to quickly identify the promising students and provide them with all the help they can get. Hopefully you can slowly minimize the proportion of bad students to go over the years.

None of this will happen those as we've effectively re-segregated things and don't care about inner city youth. Hence why we talk about gun control to save lives when you could simply help life the inner city out of a cycle of poverty and over halve the gun deaths and violence in this country. You could end the war on drugs and probably half the prison population. You could promote contraceptive use to inner city, lower educated minorities and sharply reduce the number of abortions.

All things people say they "care" about as long as you are talking about suburbia and not the hood.

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May 14, 2014

I am not sure how charter schools work in other cities, but in NYC its lottery based. There is another problem that no one seems to discuss about, that the children from this inner city, come from broken homes at times. There parents might not be around, they look for solidarity through gangs.

As much as we want to blame "teachers", not saying they're aren't bad teachers, but even if you took the best teachers and had them teach kids in Comptons, Camden etc, I don't believe we will see that much of a difference in test scores.

May 14, 2014

The whole revamping and investing in the school area isn't going to cut it. The problems that stem from students in this area lies beyond school funding/resources, it's troubles outside of school such as gang involvement, drugs, family issues, peer pressure, poverty. etc. Most of the young students in Camden don't live in a society of expectation so there is a lot of ignorance as to how to study, how to prepare, how to succeed in life, and how to escape their situation. A lot of these kids barely have parental figures, barely get hot meals, and have to worry about so much more things than education. Throwing a ton of money into the education system isn't going to solve anything.

Exactly. For the longest time I believed it was because of teachers and it really isn't, granted there are some shitty teachers but that still isn't the root cause.

Charter Schools in NYC don't out perform top Public Schools in NYC or Average schools in NYC.

May 14, 2014

@SumOne My gf is a teacher at a public school and many of the teachers there are in vehement opposition to charter schools. Not sure that there's much merit to their argument though (she said it's something to do with having a facade of equity while underhandedly favoring the brighter student, therein boosting their own creds.)

Agree with teacher quality though.

May 14, 2014

@SumOne My gf is a teacher at a public school and many of the teachers there are in vehement opposition to charter schools. Not sure that there's much merit to their argument though (she said it's something to do with having a facade of equity while underhandedly favoring the brighter student, therein boosting their own creds.)

Agree with teacher quality though.

One of the reasons is because charter school is tax money and its a lottery to get into. And Charter schools don't take in special education kids, so their test scores seem higher compared to public schools that do.

And the women who runs the charter schools in NYC makes $400K a year has no teaching experience and one day decided to shut down school and have kids go to Albany to protest the BOE.

How is that legal.

May 14, 2014

I'm not sure what's funnier, the fact that you guys are discussing Jersey schools in poor socioeconomic districts or the fact that you guys are doing so without understanding the full effect of the problems with education in New Jersey. While we can all agree that the need for education starts in the home, there needs to be a desire to learn, requires parents can push their kids to do better than them, etc., at the end of the day, New Jersey's education problems aren't going to change because of a sudden shift from being wastelands to thriving cultural centers. This isn't a question of which district you live in or a question of charter schools versus non-charter schools. This isn't a question of how much it costs per pupil to educate. These poor public school districts will never be underfunded. Money will always be thrown at them because it legally has to. Even if all of a sudden Camden underwent a major turn around, both socioeconomically and educationally, it will always get more in aid money because it's got a Franchise Tag on it that can't be removed thanks to a wonderful lawsuit filed in 1981.

This all comes down to over 30 years of legal battles to help shape the way education funding has changed in New Jersey. In 1981, the Education Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of 20 children from various districts (Abbott et al.) against Fred Burke, Edward Hofgesang, Clifford Goldman and the New Jersey State Board of Education (collectively Burke, et al.) over the quality of education funding for Group 7 Districts, districts housing the poorest of students. This lawsuit was a result of two major points. The first point related to a New Jersey constitutional clause concerning education. The state constitution required that "[t]he Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years[.]" but left it at that with no explanation. The second point comes from the 1975 case of Robinson v. Cahill, in which the Supreme Court found that the state's strong reliance on property tax revenues gave an unfair advantage to the richer districts that had a much higher taxable base. So, the state legislature changed that and then in 1981, you had the first filing of Abbott v. Burke. It was not the first significant decision for Chief Justice Robert Wilentz's activist court, those came about in form of Mount Laurel II (which, in taking it's cues from the Hughes court, followed in former Governor and Chief Justice Richard Hughes' belief in judicial activism expanded the Mount Laurel I decision with far reaching implications) in 1983 and State v. Kelly in 1984, but it was In 1985, the first Abbott decision, Abbott I, was given. The Wilentz court was unanimous in their decision - that the funding to these poor districts was inadequate and that they needed to be provided with a quality education similar to those in the richest districts. Between 1990 and 2014, there have been 20 additional Abbott decisions (Abbott II thru Abbott XXI) that have forced significant amounts of money to spent on education in poor and under performing districts. Throw in scams like the NJ School Development Authority (formerly the Schools Development Corporation), various mandated programs and the NJEA (New Jersey Education Association - the Teacher's Union), funding will only increase to these districts because it's mandated by law or by union patronage.

So, going back to the question of the ELC's statistics - they are trying to normalize the value on a per pupil basis because they want to limit the obvious fact that when you factor everything into determining the value of an education, they want to try and get more money out of the state to fund these Abbott Districts. The only way to fix the problem is to begin with cleaning up Camden and it starts in the home and in the community before you can properly fix education. Throwing money at the problem doesn't work and it hasn't for the last 30+ years. If it worked, then why Clean up the city then you can fix education. The same thing can be said about Newark, Irvington, West New York, Hoboken (yes, I said Hoboken. Despite the massive wealth in Hoboken, it's still an Abbott District.), Jersey City (Jersey City's unique in that it is two separate towns in one - there is the Grove Street/Newport/Patavonia area with its concentration of wealth that should disqualify it from being an Abbott District and then there's the rest of Jersey City, which really is an Abbott District), and Elizabeth. The kicker is that I grew up living 30 minutes from 13 different Abbott Districts. 13 of 31 districts. I lived within a ~10 mile radius of 7 Abbott Districts. I saw first hand what some of these schools were like. It's not pretty. The amount of money that gets thrown into these districts is massive but it does nothing to fix the problem unless the community wants to see it fixed in the first place. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are bright spots in the Abbott System (Elizabeth High School, Dr. Robert McNair Academy in Jersey City, Science High in Newark). Those bright spots show promise, but the question is how to you examine what has made these schools so successful and take those ideas and bring them into places like Newark and Camden where the costs of educating are constantly growing without showing any real success in educating students. That should be the question we need to ask, not how much money can we bandy around to show our support for trying to "improve" a failed educational system.

As to the charter school question, in Newark they hold a lottery for the limited spaces available. Winning this lottery is considered a godsend by so many parents because it means their children are not going to be lost in the shuffle of the Newark school system. I cannot speak to Camden or other Group 7 districts with charter schools, but I can only guess that there are similar situations in Camden, Trenton and other districts.

May 14, 2014