Sen. Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove of the 9th Legislative District are criticizing the funding cuts to local school districts solidified in the FY 2020 state budget, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on June 30. According to a petition the legislators posted online this spring, at senatenj.com/saveourschools, 17 of the 26 school districts that serve the delegation’s constituents – in parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean counties – will see a loss in aid.
“School districts in our area would be among the hardest hit anywhere in New Jersey, with our Ocean County schools suffering a net loss of nearly $4.4 million in funding next year,” the legislators wrote. “It’s a continuation and expansion of the longstanding but failed education policy that treats suburban and rural areas disparately in terms of school funding. As urban areas continue to receive a windfall of funding teachers, parents and taxpayers in school districts that had their funding cut will be lectured by a tone-deaf Trenton on how to do more with less.”
Stafford Township schools, for example, are set to recieve $9,065,632 from the state, a cut of $368,984, or 3.91 percent, from the previous year. The Long Beach Island School District will see $774,965 in aid, a decrease of $12,215, or 1.55 percent, while Beach Haven Elementary School will get $215,772, a decrease of $20,816, or 8.80 percent.
Pinelands Regional High School will see a loss of $34,573, or 0.31 percent, from the year before. Elementary schools in Tuckerton, Eagleswood and Little Egg Harbor are also slated to receive less state funding.
Barnegat schools and Southern Regional High School, meanwhile, will see increases in aid.
As the state’s “Budget in Brief” explains, the spending plan “provides $15.4 billion in funding for pre-K to 12 education (including $831.6 million in additional support from the Lottery Enterprise Contribution Act), an increase of almost $450 million over the previous year. This includes an increase in direct aid for schools, pension and health benefits payments as well as School Construction Debt Service, representing the highest amount of school aid funding provided in New Jersey history.”
However, as the 9th District delegation notes, “Students, education professionals, parents and taxpayers in our area will pay a heavy price for Trenton’s unwillingness to admit that the state’s school funding formula is fundamentally flawed and politicized.
“For all the empty rhetoric and grandstanding about fairness and fully funding public education, the state budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Murphy cuts funding to school districts in our area, including Superstorm Sandy-impacted districts. Like many of our constituents, we found this to be unconscionable. That’s why we voted against the state budget.
“We stand with our constituents in demanding reform that takes politics out of how our schools are funded by the state.”
The School Funding Reform Act, adopted in 2008, determined how the state funds K-12 schools. A bill signed by Murphy last year, though, attempts to remedy imbalances in the formula, phasing out, for example, millions of dollars in adjustment aid to hundreds of districts. The new law is intended to point the state toward “fully funding” every school district within a few years – although there is disagreement about exactly what that means. —J.K.-H.