I went into the WW-P Community Forum discussion of the upcoming school budget thinking it might be a good opportunity to consider potential areas of cost savings and/or revenue generation.
However, instead of an environment conducive to an open and creative exchange, we were handed a fixed list and asked to rank just a few items in order of preference. The idea of a community forum is good, but why try to lead us to choose among a handful of pre-selected solutions?
For example, while the items on the list were relevant (e.g. transportation, extra-curriculars, stipends, etc.), it came as a surprise that the greatest single opportunity for revenue generation was nowhere to be found. I’m referring to the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (IPSCP).
For those who may be unfamiliar, the New Jersey state legislature last September unanimously passed school choice measures that would allow a district to fill any available classroom space with students from other districts — AND receive the tax revenue for that student! If applied to its full potential, this program alone could eventually net more than $8 million dollars per year. In the first year, maybe the number would be only $1.1 million, but that’s a good start.
Such programs work. Princeton, for example, currently has a contract with Cranbury to receive approximately 200 high school students each year. The IPSCP program simply extends this practice on a larger scale. Detractors of this statewide program say it will only benefit certain school districts like West Windsor-Plainsboro! So, what are we waiting for? The April deadline is approaching.
Clearly there are families who would jump at the opportunity to attend our schools. We should welcome them — especially since they will be helping us solve our budget and tax woes.
And before certain people out there start with their “concerns” about incoming students, it’s important to remember that this is a voluntary program. As such, the students who participate in the IPSCP program are from “self-selecting” families who value education and are “voting with their dollars” for the quality of education that’s provided by WW-P.
Our school administrators are well aware of these opportunities, so I’m curious why they are trying to lure us into either accepting or else refusing Draconian cuts to programs. Some tough choices will need to be made, but let’s ask our school officials to do a better job of truly asking and listening and exploring without setting us concerned residents up to shortchange students or penalize teachers. Why not just start by letting good people chose to bring their money to our schools?