Newark, NJ — January 30, 2007
Education Law Center (ELC) today called on State education officials to take prompt action to further investigate fiscal deficiencies identified in audits of four State-operated and supervised urban school districts, and to follow up with appropriate corrective action.
Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy released the audits today, which were first proposed by the Commissioner to the NJ Supreme Court last spring, and subsequently ordered by the Court in a decision approving Governor Jon Corzine’s flat school aid budget for FY2007.
Three of the audited districts – Newark, Jersey City and Paterson – have been under direct State control for more than a decade. The fourth district – Camden – has been under intensive NJDOE monitoring since 2002.
“The NJDOE has been under Court mandate since 1998 to ensure the effective and efficient use of funds to improve education for urban school children,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “The Department must fully investigate the findings in these audits, and work cooperatively with district officials to address any and all problems. Our most disadvantaged students need every dollar, and the State, as well as the districts, must be accountable to publicly explain how those dollars are spent, and how they are improving educational outcomes.”
These audits also call into question the Department’s capacity to adequately oversee districts’ budgets and underscore the urgency to launch the independent evaluation of the NJDOE recently authorized by the Legislature. In December, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved hiring outside experts to review and evaluate all Departmental operations and functions to ensure the agency has the capacity to perform its fiscal oversight and programmatic responsibilities.
Governor Corzine has yet to announce if and when his administration will follow through on the Legislature’s directive.
“Our Governor should follow the course taken by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who yesterday announced a bold initiative to increase school funding and enhance accountability, starting with revamping the State Education Department,” Mr. Sciarra said.
“In recent years, we’ve seen a multitude of audits, investigation reports and corrective action plans, left on a shelf without follow through by State education officials. Only a top-to-bottom overhaul of our Education Department can ensure the latest audits don’t suffer this same fate.”
For Legislature’s resolution directing independent evaluation of NJDOE:
Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
voice: 973 624-1815 x16
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications