By Boruch Mandel
In past articles I have addressed my ideas regarding taxes public school education and busing. Today I would like to discuss the situation with services provided to private schools via the Board of Education.
Throughout my campaign I have often heard one complaint. It is that very nice to see a reduction in taxes, however look at the effect the cuts have had on our mosdos. Children in need of help are not getting it. We have seen an increase in the size of the group therapies that the students receive up to 8 children in a group. The situation has been described as a disaster.
Almost all the money that goes for special education service in the non public schools come from Federal Title One money or State Chapter 192 – 193 money. In fact it is the legal opinion of the Lakewood BOE Attorney that it would be illegal for the District to supplement these fund from the local tax levy. Unfortunately there have bee cuts from the Christie Administration to all parts of State aid directed towards education including Chapter 192 – 193. For example the state is only funding Chapter 192 – 193 on a 84 % basis.
I believe that Lakewood as a community must make it known to our representatives that it is important that the funding be restored. Especially now when there are two vacancies in the NJ assembly from the 30th district. (Both of the incumbent Republicans running previously served in other districts.) We should let them know that one of the primary ways we will judge them is by how responsive they are to the needs of our children.
Although the funding of these services is out of the hands of the BOE, administering it properly is their responsibility. In the past there was a single vendor, Catapult, that was in charge of all the special education services to private schools. This year, in response to requests from many schools, the district opened up bids to multiple vendors. Unfortunately only one other (small) company responded to the RFP. Subsequently Catapult decided to cut back on the services in they were providing in the schools that they still serve. The seem to think that this will convince the district to restore them as the sole provider. I do not believe they should be rewarded for their misdeeds.
If elected to the BOE I will work with all the Mosdos to develop a plan to fix this issue once an for all. The administrators and principals of the schools are the ones that best know the needs of the children. I will consult with them on how to go forward. A new RFP must be sent out that while including strict methods of accountability, will be worded to encourage the maximum number of vendors to bid. Bringing a true multi-vendor system to Lakewood will bring the competition necessary to ensure that the vendors provide the proper services for our children.
Going forward I believe that the Private school officials, future and current board members, district staff, and state legislators can work together to finally solve this problem.