The ESCNJ Mission
The mission of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey is to provide statewide excellence to students in partnership with New Jersey school districts and coordinate cost-efficient purchasing opportunities for educational institutions and municipalities to limit the tax burden on New Jersey residents.
The History of the ESCNJ - Introduction
Since our founding in 1977, The Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) has evolved to become the largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, providing educational and business services to over 700 school districts and municipalities throughout the state. The ESCNJ’s budget has grown from approximately $17 million to nearly $115 million as of 2018.
The ESCNJ was founded as the Middlesex County Educational Services Commission in 1977, providing support services to a handful of Middlesex County school districts. By 2005, we had established shared services relationships with 75 school districts in 11 counties, prompting the board at that time to request and receive unanimous State Board of Education approval to change our name to the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission. Further expansion led to a presence in all 21 counties, and the MRESC’s Board of Directors requested a name change to The Educational Services Commission of New Jersey in 2016, which was unanimously approved by the State Board of Education.
As the state’s largest service provider, the ESCNJ offers cost effective educational and business services to over 700 school districts and government agencies. The ESCNJ operates six of its own schools for student’s ages 3-21 with autism, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors, including two with onsite clinical support services. The ESCNJ also coordinates statewide transportation for approximately 14,000 students, and manages a Cooperative Pricing System with over 1,400 members, the state’s largest cooperative buying program.
In addition to the programs and services the ESCNJ provides other districts, we: operate six of our own schools, educate approximately 800 students a year in these schools; manage a Coordinated Transportation Service transporting about 14,000 special education, public, nonpublic and vocational-technical educational students via over 700 bus routes across the state; administer a Co-op Purchasing System, the largest in the state, providing over 1,400 members opportunities to purchase commodities ranging from natural gas and electricity, to vehicles, computers, playground equipment, and custodial supplies, at reduced costs; run a Professional Development Academy, offering staff development and community programs at our PDA Academy in Piscataway; administer our Department of Nonpublic School Services, offering specialized, auxiliary, and remedial Chapter 192 and 193 services to eligible students with over 6,000 services provided.
The History of the ESCNJ - Establishing a County-Wide Cooperative
The enactment of Public Law 192-193, passed by the New Jersey State Legislature in 1977, was the primary reason for establishing our organization. The law required local public schools to budget for textbook and transportation services to 20,000 non-public students residing in Middlesex County, including Middlesex County residents attending nonpublic schools in other counties. This mandate, coupled with the doctrine of separation of church and state, made a compelling case for establishing a county-wide educational services commission based on the belief that the required services could be offered more efficiently and effectively through a county-wide cooperative effort.
While some districts were already participating informally in cooperative relationships, Middlesex County officials believed that creation of a county Educational Services Commission would provide districts with a “legally-constituted,” means to “efficiently provide required services, resulting in individual districts [receiving] a much needed savings opportunity in their current expense budgets.” Although districts were encouraged to support the creation of an Educational Services Commission, it was stipulated that districts could contract for services at its own discretion and no membership fee be assessed.
“Each district will be billed only for those services that it opts to join, and presumably it would only participate in a cooperative effort when it felt there were advantages in terms of economy or effectiveness,” wrote Middlesex County Superintendent of Schools Rita J. Carney at that time.
The New Jersey State Board of Education, at its December 7, 1977 meeting voted unanimously to approve the proposal to establish the Middlesex County Educational Services Commission (MCESC), a vote that was subsequently approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. As previously noted, the approval stipulated the voluntary nature of participation with the MCESC, a practice which continues to this day, to encourage school districts to maintain local autonomy and offer services with local personnel whenever possible.
The History of the ESCNJ - The Growth of the Cooperative
While the founding of the MCESC and its Department of Nonpublic School Services was designed to help public schools meet the needs of nonpublic schools attended by its residents, the potential for additional services was already envisioned. Expansion ideas included programs like “computer services,” sharing “special consultants” for educational and support programs, managing transportation needs, consolidating printing, equipment and maintenance services, and sharing teacher services for “specialized courses.”
The vision of expanded services for MCESC proved accurate, to say the least. The MCESC began operating in February 1978, and within six years, it had opened the Central Valley School (1982), and Regional Day School at Piscataway (1984), two county-based special education schools for severely handicapped and emotionally disturbed students.
By December 1988, the Board of Directors had developed an ambitious Plan For The Future, which included:
- Securing centralized building space to meet the needs of nonpublic school services programs and central office personnel.
- Coordinating linkage with county-based programs providing varied education treatment counseling, and support services for students with substance abuse problems.
- Securing a permanent facility for Central Valley School so the MCESC could continue meeting the county-wide needs of public school districts in their legal requirement to provide services for severely emotionally disturbed students.
- Establishing a special education school for neurologically impaired, emotionally disturbed, perceptually impaired and communication handicapped students in Middlesex County in response to the needs identified by school districts.
The History of the ESCNJ - Current Day
In 2010, the Board of Directors revised the Mission Statement to read: The mission of the then, Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission is to provide educational excellence to students in partnership with New Jersey school districts and coordinate cost efficient purchasing opportunities for educational institutions and municipalities to limit the tax burden on New Jersey residents.
The ESCNJ remains committed to utilizing all available resources to assure that mandated federal and state educational programs and services are available to New Jersey students registered in public, nonpublic and charter schools. Additionally, we continue identifying ways to leverage the collective buying power of schools, businesses, and municipalities to realize cost savings.