Ginsburg to lead statewide education-advocacy group

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Glen Ridge Board of Education President Betsy Ginsburg will be the next executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, effective April 1. Ginsburg replaces Lynn Strickland who has led the group since its inception in 1992. Ginsburg said she will be joining the ranks of her working BOE colleagues since the position is a full-time job.

The GSCS organization is composed of parents and educators; its goal is equitable funding and quality education for public schools. About 90 school districts are GSCS members. According to the NJ Department of Education, there were 591 operating school districts in 2013-2014.

“It’s a regular job,” Ginsburg said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “The contract gets renewed every year.”
Ginsburg will be required to provide information to NJ legislators about funding needs.

“You talk about why the amount of state aid is insufficient,” she said. “Glen Ridge gets $22,000 a year. That won’t pay for one-half of a teacher. It doesn’t come close to rising expenses with the budget cuts.”

Another problem facing public schools, she said, are state mandates: school districts are not always compensated for what the law compels them to provide students.

“The GSCS has had some success in the past,” Ginsburg said. “During the Corzine administration, there was a major question of funding for mandated special education. When the funding formula was developed, it was based on school district wealth.”
The coalition, she said, helped to amend the funding formula so that aid was based on need, not wealth.

“It’s still not sufficient but better than if Garden State had not intervened,” she said.
Ginsburg is preparing for testimony before the state Assembly and Senate by reviewing the budget, past testimony and issues.
“Fortunately, I’ve been going to the coalition meetings for the past 14 years,” she said.

All school districts, by law, must be members of the New Jersey School Board Association. This is not true for the GSCS although the groups are complementary, according to Ginsburg.

“Bloomfield is not a coalition member,” she said. “But we would like them to be part of it. Some districts feel their school boards are enough. It depends on what type of advocacy you want. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t be part of the coalition.”