Jersey Shore schools impacted by S2 hold out hope for funding ahead of budget address
Jersey Shore school districts and local lawmakers who represent those who are grappling with losing millions in state aid are throwing up a Hail Mary ahead of Governor Phil Murphy's budget address scheduled for Tuesday at the statehouse in Trenton, as they hope he'll reconfigure the S2 legislation.
Toms River and Brick Schools, who are among the dozens of school districts including Jackson, Lavallette, Little Egg Harbor, Manchester, Point Pleasant Beach and Point Pleasant Borough in Ocean County and others across the Jersey Shore and state are losing aid are sending emails and making phone calls today in an effort to again try and get Governor Murphy's attention.
The Toms River and Brick school districts as well as Brick Mayor John Ducey were among those tweeting out the call for action.
The Brick School District using the hashtag #savebrickschools made it easy for residents not sure what to say on the phone or by email as well by listing talking points.
The Brick Township Education Association has also sent out information regarding a petition that has already garnered more than 6,000 signatures meant for the viewing of Governor Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney.
There are 200 school districts said to be overfunded by the state of New Jersey are losing state aid while 361 districts who are said to be underfunded are receiving additional aid all to what Senate President Steve Sweeney says to make every district set at 100-percent funding.
Following a December rally at the statehouse in Trenton, 10th District Lawmakers made their case to their fellow lawmakers and Senate President Sweeney that the school funding formula needs to be released.
The 10th District (Ocean County) State Lawmakers cited numbers from the US Census Bureau that state the median income for the entire state is $76,475.
Brick Township has a median income of $73,051.
Republican Assemblyman Greg McGuckin said those numbers are a clear indication that these townships are middle class and 10th District Lawmakers have introduced a bill seeking action.
“We have introduced legislation to require the Department of Education to disclose the school funding formulas for all schools throughout the state," McGuckin said. "This legislation is our only option to ensure full transparency by the DOE with our school districts and taxpayers.”
This week Monmouth County State Democratic Senator Vin Gopal issued his own calls for action in asking Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin to use corporate tax revenues to help schools transition to the new funding formula.
Senator Gopal is joining with Monmouth County Assembly Representatives Eric Houghtaling (D) and Joann Downey (D) to launch the “Support Our Schools” campaign, an effort to make sure that no school districts are left behind as the state works to equitably distribute state aid for New Jersey students.
“When New Jersey changed its school funding formula to help underfunded schools, struggling districts like Red Bank and Freehold Borough finally got the resources they needed to excel,” Gopal said in a statement. “But as districts like Freehold Borough moved from cardboard-divided classrooms to real school facilities, the neighboring Freehold Regional school district has found itself losing funds due to a decline in enrollment. Education shouldn't be a zero-sum game. These critical reforms would make sure that no student’s education suffers as we work to balance the needs of all New Jersey students.”
Gopal said that the “Support Our Schools” campaign is looking to stabilize struggling schools, modernize the school funding formula, and create new efficiencies and revenue sources to reduce taxpayer spending.
His idea is fully funding the final $200 million in Extraordinary Special Education Aid to cover the costs of professional care, transportation, and materials for high-expense special education programs, ending a system that penalizes schools for investing in special education, and giving every student with special needs the resources they need to succeed.
The campaign also aims to secure an additional $200 million in one-time transitional education aid to preserve important educational programs.
Under this transitional funding, Gopal said school districts would be held harmless to prior year aid levels for one year, providing additional time to adjust to new funding levels.
These programs would be funded through an increase in the state corporate tax rate, redirecting booming corporate profits from the federal "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" toward public schools, rather than stock buybacks and exotic investments.
“With schools across New Jersey struggling to make ends meet in the wake of recent budget cuts, we need to make sure that big corporations are paying their fair share for our kids’ education,” Houghtaling said. “Two years ago, massive companies like Walmart and Amazon got huge tax breaks from the federal government - but instead of investing that money into their workers and community partners, corporations across the nation used that taxpayer money for stock buybacks and CEO stock options. It’s time to make sure that those funds are invested where they can do the most good: our kids.”
The campaign also aims to strengthen efficiently consolidated regional school districts such as Freehold Regional, and to review and update the school funding formula to account for present-day costs of special education, transportation, free and reduced lunch, and other expenses.
“If we want to attract and retain skilled workers, we need to double down on the qualities that make our state one of the best places for young families to raise their kids,” Downey said. “We can’t afford to let the quality of our public schools slip if we want to compete with fast-growing states like Texas, Georgia, or Florida. As a mother of two young girls, I want them and their peers to receive the best education possible - and it starts with making sure that every student is receiving their fair share of funding.”
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