In April, the taxpayers of Berkeley Heights will have an opportunity to vote on the Board of Education (BOE) school budget. It would be useful to introduce some verifiable numbers for voters to know just what they are getting for their tax dollars.  The table below shows average SAT scores for 2009-2010 for Berkeley Heights and the other equivalent socio-economic school districts (I) in Union County, and also for three neighboring districts which are in the next higher socio-economic group (J), as defined by the New Jersey Department of Education.  In Union county, there are seven districts in the same socio-economic group (I), including Mountainside.  Mountainside is not included below since it does not have a high school and sends its students to Governor Livingston.

As shown in the table below, Berkeley Heights performed fourth out of six comparable districts in Union County.  (Prior years’ data reflected the same effect.)  The numbers also show that Berkeley Heights taxpayers paid more per student and get poorer academic outcomes.  Even in higher socio-economic districts, such as Chatham and Basking Ridge, taxpayers paid less for significantly better results.  Was this due to our BOE, our school administration, our teachers, or the parents?  Perhaps we should figure out why we were getting poorer results than other systems, before we blindly continue to fund the system we have. 

The comparative costs quoted in the table below are defined by the Department of Education for use in comparing most district costs.  However, these were not the total costs, which include transportation, lease-purchase costs, and others.  For example, the Berkeley Heights Comparative Cost per Pupil was $13, 425 while the Total Cost per Pupil was $14, 907. One can only hope, for example, that our school bussing is arranged to minimize total costs for the district. 

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Extra-curricular costs for Berkeley Heights ($456 per student) were the second highest in Union county. That was a total of approximately $1,277,000 for the district. What do kindergarten children do with $456 per kid?  Understandably, the bulk of these funds were used to support sports, mostly in the high school. This means that the taxpayers were spending close to $1,000,000 for high school sponsored sports.  Chatham and Ridge budgeted about $270 dollars per student; Westfield budgeted $259.  All of these schools left us in the dust academically.   

Please review this information and then vote in April.

             Comparison of Student Performance and Costs

All data from 2009-2010 Report Card, NJ Department of Education

                                                                              Comparative

School                                      SATs                            Cost per

District                          Math     Verbal   Essay   Total     Student

UnionCounty*  

  Westfield                     597       569       580       1746     $12,009

  New Providence          595       564       574       1733       13,245

  Summit                        590       558       566       1714       14,411

  Berkeley Hts.              573       547       552       1672       13,425

  Scotch Plains-Fan      560       524       526       1610       11,975

  Cranford                     532       511       513       1556        12,831                

Neighbor Districts**

   Millburn                      627       600       611       1838       $14,910

   Chatham                    598       577       595       1770         11,861

   Basking Ridge           600       573       579       1752         12,487

 

* In same socio-economic group, DFG = I

** Socio-economic group higher than I

See NJ Department of Education web site for definitions.

 

 

Murray Robbins

Berkeley Heights