MontClairVoyant: As Montclair Gets Crammed, PARCC’s Survival Slammed

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DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
With all the upscale overdevelopment Mayor Jackson and Pinnacle are bringing to downtown, Bloomfield Avenue will soon be nearly unrecognizable. Should that road’s name be changed to the longer “Jackson-Pinnacle Boulevard”?

Sincerely,
Jen Trification

Pricey rents of new apartments hurt Montclair’s diversity, so I’d hate to see 12-foot-tall residents also forced to leave town from fear of hitting their heads on wider street signs.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
The NBA thanks you. Meanwhile, there was discussion at February 25’s Planning Board meeting of a possible 74-unit apartment building in the old Hahne’s parking lot on Church Street. What’s your biggest concern about that?

Sincerely,
Reliving the 70s

I worry the project will be the final straw in making downtown so heavy with new construction that Montclair slides into the Oranges.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Turning to another business district, any thoughts about the coming 11-unit apartment building that will further cram congested Watchung Plaza?

Sincerely,
Hugh Jalee-Oversized

Did you just ask a question? I can’t hear anything over the construction din there.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
My question was in writing, not verbal.

Sincerely,
Eyes Are Not Ears

Oops. Still, I worry that if a seven-unit apartment building someday rises to the left of the 11-unit one, developers would revive the ad slogan “Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven.” And I can’t bear that.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Can you bear that some of our district’s paraprofessional positions are threatened yet again, as we learned from February 25’s Board of Education meeting?

Sincerely,
Clearly Nearly Yearly

Paras are crucial, so I hope there’s a state-aid hike for Montclair’s proposed 2019-20 school budget. Gov. Murphy campaigned as a friend of public education — meaning he should walk the walk after talking the talk or voters will squawk the squawk.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
And why is the deservedly unpopular PARCC test — ditched by most states and especially disliked in high-opt-out Montclair — still lingering in New Jersey when Murphy promised to do away with it?

Sincerely,
The Tao of Vow

Some NJ legislators are trying to keep the test (including a graduation exam) alive despite an avalanche of “please end it” calls and emails from parents that at least forced the Assembly to table a pro-PARCC measure on February 25. A gift for the two-month anniversary of Christmas.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Among the many Montclair parents calling and emailing was one who, in urging a legislator to let PARCC die, actually…

Sincerely,
Yay, 07042 and 07043!

…sang the Cranberries lyric “Do you have to, do you have to, do you have to let it linger?”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Fake news!

Sincerely,
Dolores O’Riordan Historian

Yes, but it’s not fake that some NJ legislators have received contributions from rich privatization pushers who want charter schools, vouchers, and all Montclair bathrooms to have “soap on a rope.” Well, maybe not the last thing.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Montclair’s state senator Nia Gill is not to blame for any of this; she’s a true public school supporter. But what’s privatization have do with PARCC?

Sincerely,
Besides Both Beginning With “P”

The test makes public schools look bad by ensuring that even many good students fail it. Arbitrary “cut scores,” you know. Just imagine the havoc in Montclair bathrooms if the ropes in “soap on a rope” were cut that way.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
“A Slipping-Down Life,” to name an Anne Tyler book. Speaking of reading, more info about the state legislature’s PARCC doings can be found on the Facebook pages of Montclair Cares About Schools and Save Our Schools New Jersey. Now, could you end with a different topic?

Sincerely,
Conclusion Allusion

This Sunday, March 3, there’ll be another great fundraising event — organized by Melissa DiMarco, and starting at 2:30 in the Commonwealth Club — for the tenants displaced by last year’s awful multi-family house fire at Walnut and Valley. Live music and more. Note to IRS: I deducted all humor from this mention.

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Dave,

    The residents and Board of School Estimate need a reality check and stop blaming Trenton for our school budget problems. This $130MM draft budget is on us. Per my separate post, total salaries would go up 4.4%. That’s about a $3.4MM increase. This is categorically unsustainable.

    Even if he State fully-funded school districts, it would mean another $1.1MM in aid to Montclair. Yes, it obviously helps, but the problem remains and it is structural. Further, it doesn’t matter in the end whether taxpayers have to pay more to the State or the town. It’s the same wallet. Sure, we can talk again about taxing the rich, but let’s be clear we would be doing it due to our fiscal mismanagement.

    These budgets are the best argument for charter schools.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank!

    If I’m remembering correctly, the pay of Montclair Education Association members has recently risen in the 2.5%-per-year range. I’ve never heard of total salaries possibly going up 4.4%. Did I miss something?

    State aid would indeed help, and I see nothing wrong with that. In general, I don’t think Montclair teachers, paras (especially paras), and other school staffers are overpaid.

    And I respectfully disagree that public-school-district budgets are an argument for charter schools. Yes, usually not unionized charter teachers are almost always underpaid, but charter administrators often make out quite well. For instance, Success Academy head Eva Moskowitz reportedly rakes in more than $700,000 a year. Plus there are the negatives of charters siphoning our tax money from public schools that desperately need it, charters subject to little or no public oversight despite using our tax money, charters cherry-picking students, etc.

  3. Dave,

    You’re in good company. Hardly anybody actually reads the budgets. Everyone just wants to know 2 things: are they cutting something important to me and what will the tax increase be.

    I’m not a big fan of charts schools. Who is siphoning money now? However, I am tired of this charade year, after year, after year and the BOE & District take no accountability. This year is another year of fiscal mismanagement, another year of systemic inequities & lack of performance, and the infrastructure neglect that came home to roost. Those are just top of mind negatives.

    I would love to see both the district & BOE do a report card of themselves. I would give the new superintendent due consideration as she has not been in the job that long. And the district wants to start a Pre-K? Spectacular! Throw new shiny balls up in the air so people don’t see the broken ones strewn about.

    Maybe harsh, but tell me the positives you have seen this year.

  4. A 3.75% increase, Frank? Does that include health insurance? If so, another argument in favor of Medicare for All. 🙂

    I do read school budgets, but perhaps “I skim school budgets” is a better way to put it. I haven’t looked closely at the proposed 2019-20 one yet.

    I have some mixed feelings about how the BOE and Central Office go about their business, but I tend to look at Montclair’s schools from a very personal viewpoint. I’ve had daughters in the system from 1993-2007 and 2012 to the present, and they’ve attended nearly half of the 11 public schools (Edgemont, Renaissance, Montclair High, Bradford, Buzz). I’ve been highly impressed by virtually all of the teachers, paras, principals, and other staffers, as well as highly impressed with the overall educational approach — this year and in previous years. Even as I’m aware that things are not perfect.

    As for bringing back public pre-K in Montclair, my sense is that that will only happen if the state funds it.

  5. Employee benefits are not included above. Just the healthcare component alone is up 8.46%.

    I think your State funding of Pre-k comment indicates you are missing my overall point. Let’s say the State funds us dollar for dollar at the outset. The way we manage our payroll, out costs will go up 3-4% every year after. Now maybe you know something about the State funding I don’t, but I don’t see the State making us whole each year because we can’t manage our costs. It doesn’t matter. MPSD Pre-K is not going to happen anytime soon.

  6. Health-care costs are insane. 🙁

    If the state funds public pre-K, I guess there’d have to be some kind of ironclad guarantee (if that even exists in the real world) that funding would go up each year to cover rises in salaries and benefits. If it looks like public pre-K funding would perennially remain flat at the first-year level, then it would unfortunately be very hard to afford.

    I agree — public pre-K is probably more a want than a near-future reality.

  7. Yes, health insurance has the highest visibility. However, for some local context, Transportation Services is about ⅓ the cost of our health insurance. If you compare both buckets to where they where 2 years ago, health insurance has gone up $2.4MM (17%). Not a shocker. Transportation Services, again only ⅓ the size, has gone up $2.1MM (45%). We know overall enrollment has been basically flat over that period. So, what is do you think is driving this?

  8. Frank, if transportation costs have gone up 45% in two years, I have no idea why the increase was that high.

  9. No worries. You should save this thread for reference next year. I did a quick pro forma budget for 2020-21 based on the recommended cuts this year, some rose-colored glasses trend percentages and another $600K in State funding. It resulted in another $1.5-2MM shortfall. My recommendation to the BoE & BoSE is they should have their own 2020-21 pro forma budget drawn up before finalizing this year’s budget. That would make for a fun discussion.

  10. Planning ahead is never a bad idea, Frank.

    I hope, hope, hope Gov. Murphy increases state aid for education. If that aid remains flat, then he’s little better in that respect than Gov. Christie was.

    And, to help that along, I’d be happy to see the very wealthy taxed a bit more. They’re taxed so much less (in percentage terms) than they were decades ago. Heck, in the federal-tax realm, the top marginal rate was 91% during the Eisenhower years.

  11. There you go Dave with your “tax the rich and give to me mentality.” It is working really well in NY as the wealthy move out. 91% of 0 =0. BTW, no one paid 91% in the 50’s. There were tons of deductions and loopholes. Do you really take your financial advice from a grifter that combs his hair with a balloon? I am far from rich but the idea of taking money from the ultra wealthy makes no sense to me. Their money doesn’t get stuffed in a mattress. It goes back into the economy in the form of investments, business and job creation, bank loans, and buying government debt. Less funding of wasteful, corrupt government spending might be beneficial to all.

  12. Thanks for the comment, flipside.

    I’m sure there were loopholes with the 91% rate, but there are also loopholes with today’s much lower rate. I’d rather have the former. 🙂

    The bottom line is that taxing the ultra-rich slightly more means more money for schools, infrastructure, etc. And the ultra-rich will still get to remain ultra-rich — meaning many who like living in this area will NOT give up their NJ ties and move away.

  13. “I am far from rich but the idea of taking money from the ultra wealthy makes no sense to me. Their money doesn’t get stuffed in a mattress. It goes back into the economy in the form of investments, business and job creation, bank loans, and buying government debt.”

    —-hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Flipside also believes in the Tooth Fairy!

  14. Thank you for the comment, jcunningham!

    I see what you’re saying. The ultra-rich often do plenty with their money that doesn’t benefit society — parking money overseas, leaving large sums for their often-unworthy children, donating to far-right politicians, etc.

  15. Jcunn…No, I believe in free markets and economic sustainability.
    Dave, Should we go back to Kings and serfs? Do you do know how the ultra-rich got their money? In the vast majority of cases we gladly gave it to them. Everytime we pick up an iPhone, use Amazon, buy Starbucks, etc. etc. we beg them to take our hard earned money. That’s how it works. Come up with an idea that makes life easier or more enjoyable and you can be ultra-rich too. Complaining leaves you confused and angry.

  16. flipside, I don’t shop at Kings, so I can’t go back there. 🙂

    “Do you know how the ultra-rich got their money?” Sure, there are self-made moguls like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos who came up with something millions of customers wanted. But there are also plenty of ultra-rich who inherited their money (such as Sam Walton’s Walmart-enriched children) or started off with millions before parlaying that into more (such as Trump, allegedly).

    Actually, I don’t think complaining about the ultra-rich not paying somewhat more in taxes makes me “confused.” Maybe a little “angry.” 🙂 And I don’t want to be ultra-rich if it means treating employees meanly (a la Jobs and Bezos), or outsourcing device manufacturing overseas (Jobs), or demanding $3 billion in tax credits from New York when one is the wealthiest person in the world and then taking his ball and going home when he gets some pushback (Bezos).

  17. The rich can take their money anywhere they want. Tax them what they deem to be too much they take their ball and find a new home. Government getting involved in the mortgage market nearly destroyed the economy, government involvement in student loans made college unaffordable and strapped a generation with debt. Government involvement in healthcare has made costs go up. See a pattern? Less money in government coffers means less money for crony capitalists and less government corruption. “You can’t give what ain’t got?”
    No one forces anyone to work for ultra-liberals like Bezos and Jobs. I have to admit that I spent considerable time working for rich conservatives and they treated me more than fairly and were very supportive during a difficult time in my life so maybe I am a little biased by my experience.

  18. Yet when the rich were taxed at a higher rate the U.S. was able to afford things like building its national highway system…

    Yes, flipside, there’s plenty of government corruption, but I trust government (when it’s run by somewhat-decent people who are liberal or at least not as far-right as Trump) much more than I trust profit-obsessed mega-corporations.

    Bezos and Jobs “ultra-liberals”? Um…not even close. (See my previous comment.)

    Glad you were treated well by some rich conservatives. But many don’t have a track record of treating employees well, especially employees low in the company hierarchy.

  19. Dave, if you want medicare for all, as in the UK, it can be very easily done (with apologies to Bob Dylan). The UK has a 20% VAT (sales tax) on almost everything that you buy (except for food and childrens clothes) and everyone pays – no loopholes for anyone. That seems fair

  20. Oh, now I get it! When a liberals do mean things you disown them and call them conservatives. How convenient. Trust in the government has worked wonders in Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and China. Eastern Europe still hasn’t recovered from years of government trust. No thanks.

  21. flipside, autocratic “socialism” (as practiced in varying degrees by Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and China) and democratic socialism (as practiced by Scandinavian countries, for instance, and espoused by American politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) are two very different things. My views basically fall in the second camp (democratic socialism).

    “When liberals do mean things you disown them and call them conservatives” — I disagree. People like Jeff Bezos and the late Steve Jobs have/had some liberal leanings, but the way they run/ran their businesses is/was often quite conservative (for instance, Amazon is very much against its employees trying to unionize). Bezos and Jobs are/were not Ben and Jerry.

  22. Thank you for the comment, essen!

    If the only way to get Medicare for All in the U.S. were a sales tax, that would still probably be better than no Medicare for All. The health and lives of many uninsured or underinsured people would depend on it. But a sales tax is regressive (with the poor paying the same percentage as the rich), so I’d prefer Medicare for All be funded via a more progressive tax method that takes income into account.

  23. Dave, Sanders and Cortez would lead us to the first camp. Their policies are to promise everything. Why not throw in a BMW in every pot. Scandinavia…a lot of diversity there. Maybe would should experiment in Utah and see how it goes. You make me think that everyone should be required to run a business before they can vote.

  24. I respectfully disagree, flipside. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are CAPITALISTS who want capitalism to have a bigger safety net for the non-rich, which is basically the definition of democratic socialism. Not a BMW in every pot, but assurances of having adequate health care, a decent minimum wage, etc. And maybe a Mini Cooper in every pot. 🙂

    And I don’t see why a better safety net can’t be had in diverse countries (like the U.S.) in addition to non-diverse ones (like Sweden).

    I’ve been a full-time freelance columnist/blogger/author/copy editor for 11 years, so I basically run a business. Whew — glad I can still vote. 🙂

  25. Dave…I agree they are capitalists. They capitalize rhetoric into campaign donations. Unfortunately they don’t produce anything.
    By running a business I mean with employees. The ones that get paid before you do. Give it a try…

  26. flipside, clever wordplay re Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. 🙂 At least the two of them get many small donations from not-rich citizens — meaning those particular politicians are not beholden to millionaires, billionaires, corporations, Wall Street, the NRA, etc.

    “By running a business I mean with employees. The ones that get paid before you do.” Like at Toys R Us when, during the bankruptcy proceedings, the top execs were quickly given huge bonuses while longtime workers had to push hard for months and months before getting some meager severance pay?

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