In Trenton, Monroe superintendent rallies for fair funding of education

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | Apr 24, 2018 | MonroeNow

Monroe’s superintendent and another from a Central Jersey-based school joined others in Trenton on April 23 to call for the state to fully fund public schools before lawmakers were scheduled to hold a budget committee hearing.

Michael Kozak and Manville Superintendent Robert Beers spoke during the Fair Funding Action Committee Rally in front of the Statehouse Annex where acting Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet was to testify in front of the Assembly Budget Committee.

“We want people to come and stay in New Jersey,” Kozak said. “We’re trying to tell the students and families this is the place to be, but they are being taxed out of their homes, they’re being taxed out of their residences. So we are asking, please we need to address this issue now and we cannot wait any longer.”

The Fair Funding Action Committee is a group of school administrators, elected officials, board of education members and volunteers who campaign for a more fair system to fund public education in New Jersey.

READ: $68.8 million referendum bid fails

READ: Monroe collecting data about failed $68.8M middle school referendum

READ: Town reaches settlement for eminent domain property, but not final price 

“Last year after a lot of negotiations and research to try to find a way to start moving us to a fair method for full funding over a five-year period we were disappointed frankly, to put it mildly, for what we saw introduced,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson, D-14, during the rally. “There is some good news. Both the Assembly and Senate budget committees have pledged that the budget introduced for education is only a starting point and that we will get back to a place that puts us to continuing on that path of good, fair funding for our districts.”

Monroe and many Central Jersey districts have long lobbied for additional state funding to help offset the local tax impact, while providing a better academic environment. Particularly in Monroe, the district has requested additional state aid as it grapples with a rising enrollment that has pushed some of its schools beyond capacity to the point that next year students will take classes in specially-designed trailers.

“I too, like all of my colleagues and friends, here, are tired of coming to Trenton to ask and to demand our fair share,” Kozak said during the rally. “We’ve had 1,500 students enter into Monroe in the past eight years during a time when funding was flat, and we are expecting 1,500 more students in the next five years. Our local taxpayers are funding over $1 million to put in temporary classroom trailers just to house the number of students.”

Monroe sought to relieve some of those capacity pressures by holding a $68.8 million bond referendum in March, but voters rejected that plan. The school district is currently conducting a survey to understand why the referendum to build a second middle school failed.

“After eight years of not funding the school funding formula by the previous administration, the funding formula is essentially broken. The acting commissioner’s promise to work with the Legislature to fix and modernize school funding by the time we adopt the next state budget is a hopeful sign that we’re about to finally see real progress,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, D-6, after the Assembly Budget Committee hearing, in a statement. “I look forward to working with the acting commissioner to turn today’s discussion into reality. The taxpayers and our children deserve no less.”