Monroe big winner in new state education aid figures; Old Bridge district receives $600K cut

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2 | MonroeNow | Jul 17, 2018

MONROE – The overwhelming majority of public school districts in Middlesex County will benefit under changes made to the approved state budget and the School Funding Reform Act adopted earlier this year, according to state education aid figures released on July 13.

“A stronger, fairer New Jersey means making sure that New Jersey’s schools are receiving the funds they need to advance academic excellence for our students,” said Governor Murphy on Friday. “After years of neglect, we are turning the page to bring a balanced approach to school aid by removing the growth cap on funding increases and finally beginning the process of fully implementing the state’s school funding formula established in 2008.”

Under the revised plan, only Old Bridge Township’s school district would see its aid cut. Prior to the changes, this school district was slated to receive an additional $447,658 in Fiscal Year 2018-2019, a 1-percent increase, for a total of $45,227,400. Now, its aid funding has been cut by $609,176, a 1.36-percent reduction, for a total of $44,170,566 to use in the 2018-2019 school budget.

The Old Bridge school board president and superintendent did not respond to a request for comment on July 16.

Old Bridge is one of the more than 200 districts that had funding cut in the revised 2018-2019 funding plan.

The biggest winner in Middlesex County is the Monroe Township School District. Originally for 2018-2019, it was slated to receive an additional $344,629 in state aid for a total of $3.6 million, a 10.5-percent increase. But now the district will receive $2,001,231 for a total of $5,291,700, a 60.82-percent increase over the 2017-2018 budget.

This districts receiving the most state aid are New Brunswick, a 5-percent hike to $6.3 million for a total of $133.2 million and Perth Amboy, which will receive a 4.19-percent increase. Though Perth Amboy did receive a .01-percent cut in the new plan, it will receive an additional $6.7 million for a total of $168.1 million. Woodbridge, which receives the third most state funding in the county, had its allotment upped to 17.07 percent in the revised plan. That $4.9 million increase brings it 2018-2019 funding total to $33.9 million.

South Amboy district was the only one in Middlesex County that had no change under the revised education funding award.

The Monroe Township Board of Education president did not respond for comment.

Though, the high percent increase for Monroe may seem unfair to other districts, its overall total from the state is the fifth lowest in the county, only ahead of Milltown, Metuchen, Jamesburg, Highland Park and Cranbury, which have significantly smaller populations.

The district has long objected to how much it receives from the state and this year joined others in stepping up the fight to get more funding. Its education and civic leaders and community members have lobbied local and statewide lawmakers to increase how much aid suburban schools receive.

“We want people to come and stay in New Jersey,” Michael Kozak said during an April rally in Trenton for more education funding while he was still the district superintendent. His last day with the district was June 30. “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 collective efforts resulted in the passing of the School Funding Reform Act, which in conjunction with an increase of overall education spending also reduced aid to places like Newark and Jersey City and gave those funds to smaller, suburban jurisdictions.

“The current system is unfair to schools and harmful to local taxpayers. It’s creating a structural problem in school funding and taxation that’ll only grow worse if it isn’t addressed,” Senate President Steven Sweeney said previously about changes made to school funding. “Our goal is to fully fund every school district in support of equal opportunity for every student.”