Lakewood Funding Crisis Still Not Fully Resolved

LAKEWOOD -

As of Sunday, many of the services that had been interrupted by Lakewood’s funding crisis, such as school nurses and “shadows” for children who need help, have been put back into place, but special education remained unresolved, pending a response from the state on details of compliance.

“The textbooks have all been ordered,” said Rabbi Asher Lederer of Yeshivah Ketanah, referring to one of the many withheld services at the beginning of the school year. “We are supposed to be getting them by next month.”

The textbook fiasco was blamed on a shortage of clerical staff in the district office, as well as the order of several consumable items, such as workbooks, that are not covered by government funding.

Rabbi Lederer explained to Hamodia that providers of services like nursing, shadows and self-contained classes had not authorized their employees to start working because contracts weren’t in place. Marc Zitomer, attorney for the Board of Education, said he was not able to complete them on time due to lack of information provided by the District. Now that the contracts have been delivered and are ready for review, most vendors are providing services based on letters of intent.

“If this was all a mistake, the system needs a lot of fixing,” said Rabbi Lederer.

Special-education services covered by the federal program known as Title 1 and by state laws 192 and 193 are still not being provided. According to Josh Pruzansky of the OU Advocacy Center, the format in which vendors presently provide services is being challenged by state-appointed monitor Michael Azzera.

Pruzansky said that the two points of contention are
first — whether the condition that such services be only to “support” and not to “supplant” (i.e., take the place of regular classes), explicitly stated in Title One, also applies to 192 and 193; and secondly, whether providing services for math and English during social studies and science classes is considered supplanting.

Lakewood mosdos and the Board of Education disagree with this and several other points made by Mr. Azzera.

Mr. Azzera’s definitions are in the contracts as of now, so vendors that provide these services are hesitant to begin work until these issues have been settled and payment is guaranteed.

“We are waiting for the State to decide how they define their terms,” said Isaac Zlatkin, President of the Board of Education. Pending this, a meeting of all parties to work out details is expected to take place this week in Trenton.

“I think that because of the spotlight on the matter the State is starting to backtrack,” said Zlatkin, who called an emergency board meeting last week to address the issue.

“Within 48 hours of the emergency meeting, we got contracts that had been taking months to compile.”