Regionalizing the school system

January 27, 2010 3:23:05 PM PST
While district's deal with tighter budgets, some smaller towns are actually looking to merge their school districts.Once students graduate from the Ridgedale Middle School in the Florham Park school district, which has grades K through 8, they go to Hanover Regional High School, with kids from several small districts.

"So what ends up happening is, that they actually take a while when they get up to the high school level to actually merge together," said Mark Majeski, Ridgedale Middle School principal.

Supporters of combining small school districts into one, feel it would save money in several ways.

"Right there I could see there would be savings and right here at home, it's coming back to the taxpayer's dollar," said Florham Park mayor, Scott Eveland.

But Ridgedale Middle School PTA President Patricia Bowden is not convinced.

"Seeing it change just for the sake of saving a few dollars probably isn't what most parents are thinking of. We invest in our children's education," she said.

New Jersey has more than 600 school districts. 62 of those schools are K through 6. 220 are K through 8, another 220 are K through 12. The rest are strictly high school, vocational, special services or charter school districts.

"If you had the larger districts, you could save some significant amounts of money over a period of time," said Ernest Reock, Rutgers Professor Emeritus.

Regionalized districts have to be paid at the highest rate in the smaller districts. It also threatens property taxes.

"In the first year, few years of consolidation there might be some increase in expenditures, yes," adds Professor Reock

Florham Park superintendent, Dr. William Ronzitti, supports regionalization.

"So my discussions with taxpayers would be, what are the benefits of a regionalized or consolidated school system for children," he says.