Cunningham Statement On The First Meeting Of The Joint Committee On Public Schools

Senator Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, looks on as the Senate votes on legislation.

TRENTON – After the first meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee on Public Schools for this Legislative Session, State Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, a member of the panel, issued the following statement:

“Educating our young is one of the most sacred and important obligations of government. We must ensure future generations have the tools and training needed to be successful in today’s world, and a good education is the foundation for future success.

“I look forward to working with my fellow legislators on the Joint Committee on Public Schools to guarantee the promise of quality education to all State residents, no matter where they call home.

“Today’s hearing on the QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum) model for State oversight of historically underachieving school districts was eye-opening, particularly in regards to the problems the City of Paterson is facing in complying with QSAC standards.

“Under the QSAC guidelines, the Department of Education assesses State-regulated schools districts through financial and educational benchmarks. QSAC has worked well in Jersey City and Newark, where we are beginning to see success and these schools districts are well on their way to regaining local control over their finances and curriculum. However, Paterson remains well-behind where they should be in meeting the State’s standards.

“According to the State monitoring, Paterson is doing well in personnel management, and is hiring qualified teachers to staff its schools. However, the school district is receiving failing grades in instruction and programs. How can decent personnel with quality credentials be failing the students of Paterson so badly?

“We need to assess the assessments, and ensure that QSAC is asking the right questions on school districts’ finances and curriculum to ensure quality education for the students in these State-regulated districts. We cannot abandon these kids to mediocrity, and must have realistic, attainable and enforceable standards for education in New Jersey.

“I would also like to see greater transparency in the process that the Department of Education undergoes in hiring fiscal managers for school districts in distress. Just like we want the most qualified teachers to improve the educational opportunities for students in these districts, we want high-quality fiscal managers to put the districts’ budgets on the right course.

“While the QSAC model is a good starting point to preserve the integrity of New Jersey’s educational system, we must constantly be looking to improve on that model. Complacency cannot be tolerated, particularly when that complacency means lost opportunities for students in need in the Garden State.”