State Journal: Gaps in the Garden State; Rain man

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Despite New Jersey's national reputation as a leader in education reform--and its lengthy, ongoing legal battle over equalizing financial resources--a significant number of school districts in the state still fail to provide key services, according to a recent survey by the New Jersey Education Association.

The poll of local union officials suggests that the Garden State's districts would have to undertake major additional efforts if--as the njea hopes--the legislature next year approves a proposed bill setting new statewide requirements for school programs.

The survey found, for example, that only 35 percent of secondary schools and 15 percent of elementary schools provide the "comprehensive curriculum" called for by the bill. The measure mandates instruction in behavioral sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, language arts, social studies, science, and other areas.

Libraries were not available in 15 percent of the schools, the survey revealed.

None of the districts reporting meets the bill's targeted class size of 15 students, and none could offer the required staff-to-student ratio of 1-to-100 for guidance counselors and other educational support services.

Only 28 percent of those reporting offer instruction in parenting skills for pregnant students.

Moreover, while almost 70 percent of the secondary schools offer academic instruction for pregnant teens, the survey indicated, fewer than 20 percent provide prenatal care. Day-care facilities are available in only two districts.

It's time to break out the umbrellas for the schools, a gubernatorial candidate in New Mexico has suggested.

Paul Bardacke, one of five announced Democratic contenders for the office now held by Garrey Carruthers, a Republican, called recently for a constitutional amendment to divert some of the revenues from the state's severance taxes to education.

The levies on oil and natural gas and other mineral resources currently go into the Severance Tax Permanent Fund--a so-called "rainy day" fund created to help the state government get through difficult fiscal situations.

Mr. Bardacke proposed that 25 percent of such revenues--an estimated $40 million a year--be set aside for education and prenatal care.

"This is a way, without cutting any programs and without raising any taxes, that we can put massive amounts of money into education," he said.

"My view is that it is already a 'rainy day' in New Mexico," he added.--lj & hd

Vol. 09, Issue 12

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