Insurance rate increases that outpace the 2 percent cap on school budgets, funding the educational needs of students with disabilities, and hundreds of state mandates—with new ones added each year—are among the challenges Madison school board members told state legislators they face in a special meeting with Madison's representatives on Tuesday night.
State Sen. Richard Codey and General Assembly members John McKeon and Mila Jasey, the legislators who represent Madison and other District 27 towns, attended Tuesday's Board of Education meeting to discuss a wide range of issues in public education.
Also in attendance was Dr. Lawrence Feinsod, the incoming CEO of the New Jersey School Boards Association, which handles key lobbying efforts on behalf of the state's school boards.
Feinsod, who was the superintendent in Madison for 16 years, said he plans to form a task force to work with legislators on finding a way to help districts afford the cost of educating students with special needs, and planned to call the association's lobbyists the next day to raise concerns brought up by Madison Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi about the logistics of having every student take standardized tests on computers if there are not enough computers.
Feinsod said there is "no question that local control has eroded over the years," but education decisions are best made by people closest to the children.
McKeon said legislators need to be vigilant and protect local control, and not deconstruct one of the best public education systems in the nation.
Jasey called for discussion about public education issues to be "toned down."
The state needs to have a "calmer, more cooperative" approach and find ways to ensure New Jersey attracts the best teachers and provides them with the necessary training and support.