“Requires Education Service Agencies to Assist Local School Districts in Shared Services”
NJEA opposes S-610 (Sweeney). This bill provides that the executive county superintendent of schools in each county must identify an education services agency to serve the county for the purpose of promoting shared services. The education services agency must be either a county special services school district or educational services commission located in the county; except that if there is not one of these entities located in the county, the Commissioner of Education is required to designate one of these entities in an adjoining county to serve as the education services agency.
While NJEA supports the idea of reducing administrative expenses through shared services, NJEA believes these agreements should be optional and the local board of education should be able to withdraw to maintain the quality of programs and services. Although the legislation specifies that entering into a shared services agreement identified by the executive county superintendent is optional, this legislation and existing law will undercut local control of programs and services because executive county superintendents have the authority to approve and withhold approval of a local district’s budget. Under this proposal, an executive county superintendent can withhold budget approval to force districts into shared services agreements with no opportunity for educational oversight of the arrangement.
When the legislation was discussed in the Senate Education Committee last year, many groups voiced similar concerns and were assured further discussions would be forthcoming before the bill moved. Unfortunately, said meetings never materialized and questions about transparency, accountability, competition and monitoring still remain.
Such concerns include, but are not limited to, providing services related to:
- Professional development
- Aspects of special education
- Pre-school programs—including handicapped
- Summer school
- Technology support
- 90 day notification in event of sub-contracting
While NJEA agrees that districts need to seek more opportunities to share services, we believe S-610 should be amended to provide additional safeguards, clarification and direction.
Therefore, until these questions are addressed, we ask you to vote “NO” on S-610.