State bailout will keep South Jersey Education Center Open

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The state-created Educational Information and Resource Center, which threatened to close last month,  has received a state bailout to keep operating.

The state Board of Education passed a resolution Wednesday to immediately provide $1.1  million in emergency aid for the agency based at Camden County College in Blackwood. The funding will allow the agency to operate for the remainder of April, said David Saenz Jr., a state Department of Education spokesman.

The board also approved the distribution of up to $3.2 million in additional emergency aid for EIRC,  according to the resolution adopted by the board. Payments would be released monthly until the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the resolution said.

The South Jersey agency, the only of its kind in the state, has provided education services, workshops, consultants and other services to assist New Jersey school districts for years. It also operated a before and after school care program in Gloucester City public schools.

In March, EIRC began advising districts that it would close March 31 and cease operations. An EIRC official cited losses greater than $3.7 million over the last three years, past bad business practices, and failed programs.

The state Board of Education’s resolution said the EIRC was “unable to meet its financial obligations” to provide contracted services. A disruption, the state said, would negatively impact students and districts.

Saenz, in an email, said state officials “will continue to work with the EIRC regarding the issue of parents who prepaid for events that were canceled, and on managing essential services in the future.”

EIRC received state funding until 2010, when it received $405,000, according to Saenz. It was unknown why the funding ended.

David Lindenmuth, executive director of EIRC, did not respond to messages Thursday seeking comment. The agency’s website has been offline for several weeks.

The possible shut down of EIRC last month sent Gloucester City officials scrambling to find a new provider to run the district’s before and after school program that had been operated by EIRC at the Cold Springs School.

The YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties agreed to step in, effective last Monday, and continue the B.E.S.T. program. The agency hired at least three of the B.E.S.T. program’s staff  and said it would  keep the program largely intact. 

About 70 students in prekindergarten through third grade are enrolled in Gloucester City’s B.E.S.T. program, which also offers summer school, officials said. The services and staff were solely provided by EIRC, with no funding from the district.

It was unclear whether any other programs operated elsewhere by EIRC have been impacted by its financial troubles. EIRC previously was located at the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan University. It moved to Blackwood last year.

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