David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision?
David Hespe–How could you do such a thing?
New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe, in what has to be one of the most extraordinarily cynical and disingenuous legal decisions produced by a state bureaucrat (who also is a lawyer), has upheld the dismissal of nearly 50 pupil attendance officers in Newark, a district with arguably the worst pupil attendance rates of any school district in the state.
Hespe overturned the decision of a state administrative law judge who ruled that former state-appointed school superintendent Cami Anderson violated the law in 2013 when she laid off 46 attendance officers to close a budget gap.
Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Moss, citing the statutes requiring all districts to take action against truants, concluded Anderson “violated (the statute) by abolishing the position of attendance counselor that is statutorily mandated.”
Anderson, Moss wrote, took the action as part of a plan to close a budget shortfall of $57 million–a shortfall caused primarily by $33 million in payments of district funds to privately-run charter schools. But, while school districts and other public agencies have broad powers to abolish jobs and lay off workers, they may not break the law to do it.
“The testimony in this matter has shown that there is no one in the NPS (Newark Public Schools) who is looking for truant students since the attendance officers were laid off,” Moss wrote in a ruling on a case brought by the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).
Moss described the responsibilities of attendance counselors who, under law, had extensive powers to track chronic absenteeism, search the city’s streets for truants, and even arrest them summarily and return them to school or their parents. She said the district operated four yellow school buses used solely to patrol David Hespe: How could you write such a shameful decision? |: