Friday, March 31, 2017

WSJ: Reports on Lakewood school budget, blames busing of private schools

 The Wall Street journal reports on the Lakewood school district budget shortfall, and who else to blame it on, but the busing of Private school students. Its always a good story to show a picture of a  Orthodox student with a school bus in the background. The WSJ fails to mention the LSTA which was created by the state of NJ to provide mandated busing for private school students. Nothing to do with the BOE. Second, the report says "The board chose to provide free transportation to private-school students, even when they aren’t required by law to get busing because they study near home." That statement is not true, facts are the only ones getting free transportation are the non mandated public school students. What more can you expect from the clueless mainstream media.

 By LESLIE BRODY March 30, 2017 7:14 p.m. ET
LAKEWOOD, N.J.—A superintendent’s warnings that the proposed budget for 2017-18 would decimate public schools has caused an uproar in a town that has seen a rapid influx of Orthodox Jewish families sending children to private religious schools.

The school board is dominated by Orthodox men who don’t have children in public schools. Advocates for public-school children, who are mostly poor and Hispanic, say the board doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Barry Iann, the board president, denies that charge. “We represent all the children,” he said.

Now 6,233 Lakewood children attend public schools, and more than 30,000 are enrolled in some 125 private schools, according to the district. In recent years, the number attending private schools has grown by roughly 2,500 annually. About 96,500 people live the 25-square mile township.

Controversy has swirled around Lakewood’s costly busing program. The board chose to provide free transportation to private-school students, even when they aren’t required by law to get busing because they study near home. Critics contend the service is too expensive, but supporters say it improves safety in a town with heavy traffic.

This year, the Lakewood Public School District is set to spend $24.6 million of its $135 million budget on transportation—even more than the $16.8 million spent on regular classroom instruction. “It’s scary,” said the superintendent, Laura Winters. “The kids in public schools end up hurting.”

Lakewood Public School District’s 2016-17 budget of about $135 million includes:

$31.8 million in tuition for private placements for disabled students
$24.6 million for transporting children to public and private schools
$16.8 million on regular classroom instruction
Source: Lakewood Public School District

Teenagers in the public high school can reel off details of a looming $15-million budget hole that the superintendent said would require the dismissal of 119 of the district’s 450 certified teachers before fall if solutions aren’t found. Students and parents express alarm about the possible elimination of guidance counselors, summer school and sports, and average class sizes that could swell to 50. “Fifty students in a class can cause a lot of distraction,” said 17-year-old Elizabeth Villanueva.
The tensions echo the scenario in East Ramapo, N.Y., where the board also is dominated by Orthodox Jewish men whose families don’t use the public schools.

Adding to the conflict in Lakewood, the board is searching for a replacement for Ms. Winters, whose contract ends in June. Some community advocates are fighting for her to stay, and note that the district’s graduation rate improved to 75%, from 69%, under her five-year tenure. The board “should be crawling over broken glass to keep her,” said Tom Gatti, chairman of Senior Action Group.

Mr. Iann said the board is looking for a strong new leader and problem-solver. He said Ms. Winters’ warning of cuts marked a starting point for negotiations with state officials for aid. “We don’t have a spending problem,” he said. “We have a funding problem.”

Mr. Iann blamed the deficits largely on the state’s repeated failure to fully fund its formula for distributing school aid. State leaders have cited fiscal constraints.

Special education has proved a challenge as well. By law the district must pay for special education for all children who need it, including students in private settings for the disabled. The district is spending nearly $32 million this year for such private placements, including payments for 190 children at the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, which charges $97,000 a year per student. Many Orthodox families moved to Lakewood so their children could attend the school. read more at WSJ


  1. Hogwash. I would have thought the WSJ would be more accurate. Laura's statement about the budget for busing is disingenuous. She knows about the LSTA and that it's mandated by the State. Just one more reason why she should NOT be rehired!! Crawl over glass to rehire her? Not in this lifetime. We should crawl over glass to get away from her!!

  2. We have to subscribe to read the article. Can you just post the whole pathetic article here?



  3. Rest of article
    To assuage complaints from some public school families that private-school children benefit from additional busing, this year the town also pays for public-school children to get free busing, even if they live nearby. That is in addition to the district's payments for state-mandated busing for all children who live more than 2 or 2 1/2 miles from school, depending on their age.

    The district has encountered such serious financial problems for years that the state appointed a fiscal monitor with veto power over the board in 2014. Now, there are three monitors, including one to scrutinize whether services to special-education students are handled properly. One of the monitors referred questions to the New Jersey Department of Education. An agency spokesman said the department will work with the district and fiscal monitors to "review and address the budget situation" as it has in previous years.

    Pastor Glenn Wilson, an advocate for public education, said that if the proposed cuts go into effect, "they might as well close our schools down."

  4. FAKENEWS from WSJ

  5. See @lesliebrody on twitter.. Lots of bias towards non-public school in general. The WSJ should conduct better research before hiring incompetent reporters who fail at basic journalistic due diligence. #fakenews

  6. Don't complain here, reach out to the reporter or wsj editors

  7. It reads as if the WSJ got its information from reading the APP which did the hatchet job on the Orthodox when discussing Eisenman and the purloined funds.

  8. The LTSA was created because the Private School busing situation in Lakewood crippled the Schools Budget. The LTSA was a bail out for the way private schools have crippled that town.

    1. Wrong> It was created because the district was incompetent in running the mandated busing of private schools. The District used the bussing card to deflect attention from its own mismanagement and failings from its out of control spending, and put the blame on busing of the orthodox. Now that they cant blame the busing they are looking for other scapegoats by fear mongering to cover up for what went on under their nose. The LSTA managed to run the busing for much less than what it cost the district.

  9. Just sent Leslie Brody and the WSJ Editors the following letter. Everyone please ad your own, this article was nothing less than libel.


    I read your article regarding the Lakewood School District and was severely disappointed. The article is based on lies and misinformation. The fact is that the Lakewood School District doesn’t not provide non-mandated busing to private school children. The fact is that the Lakewood School District does provide busing for non-mandated public school children.

    They provide the additional service to public school children, even though it is illegal by NJ State Law to discriminate between the two. If non-mandated bussing is provided to one, it must be provided to all. They do this, even though the vast majority of tax payers are Orthodox Jews who don’t send their children to public school.

    Aside for the blatant disregard of the facts, your article is also missing some important relevant information. Governor Christie issued a funding freeze to local school districts. This in effect, punishes school districts that are growing, while having no impact on ones with a stable population. Lakewood is the fastest growing township in NJ by far, and it has been uniquely impacted by this decision.

    However, this doesn’t even get to the root of the problem, which is the state funding formula. The formula that the state uses to determine the amount of aid that a district receives, is based on the amount of students attending public school. Although not intentional, this formula severely underfunds Lakewood.

    Special Education services in NJ, are mandated by the State. However, in Lakewood, the amount of special-ed students is based on a total population of 36,000 students, yet the state only funds it as if there were 6,000 students. The mandatory school busing for private school students amount to approximately $17 million, yet again, the state funds it as if there were only 6,000 students.

    Now that we have gotten some of the facts out of the way, there is something that bothers me even more, the tone of your article. You seem to blame the Orthodox for the problems with the Lakewood BOE. In your article, you make it appear as if the Orthodox are taking advantage of the Public School Children.

    I am representative of an Orthodox Parent. I send my children to private school at great personal expense and sacrifice. I also pay very high property taxes to the Township, and income and sales tax to the State. I paid property taxes for a decade before I had any children in school, and even now, the most I ever got from the school district, is bussing for 2 of my 3 children. So even in my worst year, I contributed over $4K of my property tax to the school district portion of the bill, and received less than $1,500 in benefit.

    Which brings us to the root of why your article was so insulting. I, and by that, I mean the Orthodox, pay massive property taxes, and take very little in service for those taxes. At most, people in my position should be thanked, at the least ignored, but what happens, we have articles like yours lambasting us and blaming us, as if we are stealing from the poor and dis-advantaged, when the reality is we are paying much more than our share.

    I saw one report that concluded that if the private school children in Lakewood would all go to public school, it would cost the State over $100 million in additional aid. The State needs to fix the funding formula, so Lakewood receives the proper funding, for the minimal services that the state mandates, and reporters with agendas, need to stop with the yellow journalism and attacks on people already being victimized by the system

    1. Harold HerskowitzMarch 31, 2017 at 1:03 PM

      Nothing more needs to be said. Excellent. I hope the author takes what you wrote to heart

    2. I got a response from the reporter. See Below

      "Thank you for your comments Mr. xxxxx
      I will keep your contact information in hopes we can talk when I next write about this issue.


  10. Ive been told that T...... contacted a reporter at the WSJ and fed her his untrue version of the info (but only on condition of not quoting him on anything other than the superintendent) because of his tremendous dislike for the community, which is evidenced by his consistent efforts into besmirching in any way he can. This one-sided hit piece by @lesliebrody shows no attempt whatsoever to hear the other side of the story and get her facts straight before publishing. What a shame! #fakenews

    1. The same T... has also reached out to the Star Ledger now. He is on a rampage disparage as much as he can with willing reporters.

  11. If its indeed fact then the wsj should be able to show it and if it fiction then just ignore it because fact will be proven.