Common Cornered – from Club President John Van Wagner

As students across our community fire up their computers to tackle the Common Core exams this week, I propose a new mandatory test, one that will measure the efficacy and competence of the Board of Education’s stewardship of our tax dollars.   

It consists of just a four questions, three multiple choice and an essay.   Incorrect answers on any 2 (two) of these should result in the Board’s being declared a failing entity, subject to dismissal and the subsequent  institution of a new, elected school board.
1.)  What was the main driver in the $10.9 million deficit announced by the Board at its February 23 meeting?
    a.) public funds drained from the school system through the town’s vibrant school voucher program
    b.) the necessity of new computer equipment to facilitate the Common Core test
    c.) cost overrides on new construction and building maintantance
    d.) liabilities associated with public sector employees’ health benefits
2.)  Penny MacCormack resigned because:
    a.)  she got a great new job in New York
    b.)  she was a victim of a nefarious palace coup
    c.)  within her two-year tenure, she brought the financial state of Montclair’s school system from hope to ruin
    d.)  all of the above; or, we don’t know
3.  The best way to fix the Montclair school system’s fiscal woes is:
    a.)  raise property taxes 4.4 %
    b.)  raise property taxes 8.9 %
    c.)  raise property taxes 12.4 %
    d.)  raise property taxes 15%, with an added moving penalty of  $20,000 for anyone caught escaping across the border to Cedar Grove, Nutley, Clifton, or Glen Ridge
4.   The essay question is in two parts:
By what right do you, an unelected and unaccountable body, presume to dictate to an already beleaguered citizenship that they must again pony up to help mask your internal incompetence?
How, exactly, did the Board manage to spend its way from a $10M surplus into an $11M hole?   For part 2, please use English, and cite specific examples of expectation vs. reality, and why.
The agglomeration of these test results will show the world  exactly where we as a community stand against other municipalities in the education forum.
Opting out is not an option.   And more federal money will go only to those who answer each question correctly from a political standpoint, if not a substantive one.
Best of luck to all participants.  Let the results speak for themselves.
John Van Wagner, President, Montclair Republican Club
A version of this essay appeared in the Montclair (NJ) Times on March 12, 2015
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