Yesterday, Brian Everett weighed in on some activism in Cherry Hill which accuses Camden of corruption. Joseph Russell responded in the comments, and I wanted to share that with everyone here:
It’s utterly insane to me that a lot of suburbanites would never step foot in Camden, but they think they can perfectly evaluate funding levels for schools they would never step foot inside. This is what segregation and ignorant rhetoric has gotten us, and it’s completely unacceptable.
Two comments Brian makes speak to something I always think about. When he says “What folks need to understand right now is that we are beginning to see suburban towns struggle to maintain facilities all while paying a lot in property taxes to fund public schools.” and “We are not considering the economic hell the entire state would be subjected to if dozens of school districts, and quite possibly municipalities too, fall into bankruptcy.”, he hints at a problem New Jersey is going to have to deal with in the 21st century. That is, that its sprawling, low-density suburbia could never afford to pay for itself and the services it uses, and now that most suburban towns aren’t expanding anymore, they can no longer fool themselves into thinking that if they just build a little more sprawl on their edges, another subdivision or two, they’d take in enough in real estate taxes to pay for their schools (and roads, and sewers, and power lines, and parks, etc). New Jersey’s development model was doomed to fail, and we’re starting to see just that. Towns like Cherry Hill are honestly in much better condition than towns further out from the jobs that’re moving back to cities and the state’s traditional population centers. South Jersey in particular needs to recognize this real fast, since most of it was built after the invention of the car and thus is in particular peril once the full economic force of this problem hits.
Going back to the issue of Cherry Hill residents having problems with Camden schools getting more money in aid than theirs, I’ve got a simple option for them: move to Camden. If you want an easy way that wouldn’t cost the state (and thus “taxpayers”) money all that much, set up a program to share the tax burden for education by moving wealthy suburbanites into struggling cities. Economic/class segregation is what created this problem to begin with, and it’s the reason Trenton had to start giving out more money to some places in the first place. Healthy places that don’t have to get taken over by the state have a wide array of people with different incomes and backgrounds while concentrating poverty is a guaranteed way to require state intervention. Get more middle and high income individuals in poor cities, and you’ll reduce the need for Trenton to send money to cities for a whole host of reasons.