JERSEY SHORE – A coalition of school districts are asking the state to explain why they are getting less aid.
The districts are impacted by S-2, which changed how much “adjustment aid” schools receive from the state. Districts that were considered more wealthy, with declining enrollment, received less aid. Districts have said that they are the victim of funding formulas that are outdated or full of mistakes.
Individual districts and reporters have attempted to get an explanation of how this funding was doled out. The state said that the information was “proprietary” and not open to the public.
Several local boards of education passed resolutions stating they’ll join in the OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request.
Part of Brick’s resolution reads “the State arbitrarily determines how much State Aid to allocate to each school district, without regard to district need or ability to pay…and such disparate treatment is neither “equal” nor “equitable” and is without a rational basis; and
whereas, the State should be transparent in how it calculates and allocates State Aid to each school district.”
In the event the request is denied, the board may join in litigation against the “State of New Jersey, Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education to obtain data and records from the State of New Jersey and its various Departments as to how the State calculates and allocates State Aid to each school district.”
Districts have already jointly recruited the Weiner Law Group to represent them in this matter.
James Edwards, the business administrator for the Brick district, said that they have asked for this information before and were turned down.
A resident in the audience at a recent Board of Education meeting asked if Trenton would answer their request. Edwards said they “should” provide the information but he is expecting resistance.
Hopefully, there is power in numbers and with dozens of other districts, Trenton might not be able to turn it down, he said.
Brick has already seen cuts, such as the closing of the Herbertsville Elementary School to turn it into a grant-funded preschool program.
In Toms River schools (which include South Toms River, Beachwood and Pine Beach), S-2 will cut more than $90 million in state aid over the next six years to Toms River, including $2.8 million in the 2019-2020 budget.
Cuts have already started. The 2019-2020 school district budget includes cuts of 77 positions.
Toms River school district’s business administrator William Doering said that their Board of Education will be passing a similar resolution as Brick.
Additionally, Freehold Regional will also be part of this OPRA request, said Rebecca Policastro, communications and district project coordinator.
Freehold’s aid is dropping from $51 million in 2017 to $21 million at the end of the several-year cycle.
According to the district, this will impact students in severe ways: class sizes, which are already high, will increase; maintenance and repairs will be put off; and extracurricular activities and transportation will be impacted.