Tutoring Remains Unresolved In Lakewood Funding Crisis

LAKEWOOD -

As of Tuesday, most services affected by Lakewood’s non-public school funding crisis had been restored, while those covering tutoring staff, providing extra help for English and math, remained unresolved, pending a response from government agencies.

According to Board of Education President Isaac Zlatkin, contracts for IDEA (Individuals for Disabilities Education Act) were finalized Sunday night, allowing shadow services to begin for students requiring them.

“Sadly, there are many children who are not fully functional,” said Zlatkin. “They could not be in school without shadows.”

“The textbooks have all been ordered,” said Rabbi Asher Lederer of Yeshivah Ketanah, referring to another of the many services not yet available when school opened. “We are supposed to be getting them within the month.”

The missing textbooks were blamed on a lack 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 such as nursing, shadows, and self-contained classes had not started work due to the lack of contracts, which Marc Zitomer, attorney to the Board of Education, said he was not able to complete on time due to the 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.

As for the continuing lack of tutoring services, Rabbi Lederer said that “there is a long list of kids who are desperately waiting for help.”

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

The delay in nursing services elicited the strongest responses from parents. Zlatkin told Hamodia that several children with serious medical issues were asked by schools to stay home during the delay of nursing services.

“I am getting calls from parents with diabetic kids,” he said at the emergency board meeting last Wednesday night, attended by hundreds of parents. “There are kids with serious allergies who go from a normal color to blue very fast. What if that happens when they are in school, and there is no nurse?”

“My son fell in the school yard, tore his pants, and skinned his knee,” said one Lakewood parent.  “The menahel had to get the key to the nurse’s office to clean and dress the cut. I know that there are people with much more serious issues, R”l, but even for parents of healthy children it’s very unsettling to know that there is no nurse in their child’s  school.”

Since the beginning of the school year, the most contentious issues were tutoring services covered by Federal Title I and state laws 192 and 193. According to Josh Pruzansky of the OU Advocacy Center, the format in which vendors currently provide services is being challenged by state-appointed monitor, Michael Azzera.

However, as of Tuesday, services covered by Title 193, which covers special education, have been split off from its usual counterpart, 192, and will begin Wednesday morning.

Prusansky said that the two points of contention are: first, whether the condition laid down by Title I that services are meant only to “support” and not to “supplant” (i.e. take place in regular classes) also applies to 192; 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 present contracts, so vendors that provide these services are hesitant to begin work until the issues have been settled and their payment will be guaranteed.

While Title One and 192 are the only two programs that have yet to be restored, they affect hundreds of children and the livelihoods of many providers.

Mr. Zlatkin told Hamodia that as a result of the uncertainty in the funding of these programs, “hundreds have applied for unemployment.”

For now, Lakewood mosdos are waiting for a decision from authorities on how they interpret the terminology in question. Zlatkin said that they expected an answer by the end of the week. Pending that decision, a meeting will be held in Trenton among all interested parties to hammer out a long-term solution.

“We are waiting to hear from the federal authorities about Title I,” said Zlatkin. “Once they decide, the state will probably follow them.”