Camden's new schools superintendent, Paymon Rouhanifard, is scrambling to implement a plan to handle an expected $75 million deficit, which again raises the question of what good state oversight has done for the system. How did such a deficit occur under a state fiscal monitor, assigned to the district since 2006?

The New Jersey Department of Education's explanation - that state monitors only ensure that proper procedures and protocols are followed by local school boards - is appalling. It's like saying the Coast Guard should rush in when a ship is sinking only to make sure everyone drowns by the rules.

Camden spends $27,500 per student, $9,000 more than the state average, yet all but three of its 26 schools are listed among the state's worst. Its high per-pupil costs are in part due to the district's large number of special-needs students. But spending the monitor allowed is now requiring drastic steps, including hundreds of layoffs.