Education needs attention

Education in New Brunswick may improve under Type II district

A New Brunswick city resident and parent named Yolanda Baker is currently petitioning to give residents the ability to elect their own school board members to the city’s Board of Education, according to a recent story published this week by The Daily Targum. Baker, who this editorial board first praised for her short run with two other city residents for an open seat on the city council earlier in the semester, is again showing that resident involvement is key to a successful community. She was eight signatures short of the required 327 as of press time, according to the story.

Baker’s mission is not one unworthy of praise. If successful, the petition would effectively change the city, which is now a Type I district where only the mayor is granted authority to elect BOE officials, to a Type II district where resident themselves would be given the ability to vote on board members, along with the annual school budget. Clearly, the city’s current approach to education isn’t working, and we’re prepared to support any measure to change it — especially if it means giving voice to the community members themselves.

It needn’t be said that education in New Brunswick needs immediate attention. In 2011, the city had a graduation rate of 58.76 percent — the lowest rate in Middlesex County. Lincoln Elementary School, located on Bartlett Street in New Brunswick, correspondingly has a graduation rate of 58 percent. And this is an elementary school. When only little more than half the city’s youth manage to graduate on time, something is seriously wrong.

Allowing city residents a voice in electing BOE officials would be especially useful in curbing this problem. New Brunswick — its population being 50 percent Hispanic — is home to families from a long spectrum of backgrounds and ethnicities, and as such, young students in the city require a special kind of attention. Many of them are coming from low-income households, where English may not be the primary language spoken. It seems counterintuitive to us to continue allowing city official-elected officials, who have no relation to them and have little understanding of the circumstances under which they attend school, to make decisions pertaining to these students. Ostensibly, these decisions would be better made by the parents and neighbors of the community of which they are a part.

Of course, the success of a Type II district school system depends largely on active engagement on the part of the residents themselves. But with the right involvement, such a system could do considerably more for a community than the one currently in use. In Baker’s own words, “it takes a village to raise a child” — not a bunch of obscure city officials.

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