EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - As part of Governor Murphy's new school funding revision, the East Brunswick Public Schools will receive more than a half-million dollars. However, the bulk of the cash will not go to the students in the township's public schools.
According to Superintendent Victor Valeski, "The $562,987.00 increase in state aid was reflected in our FY2019 tentative budget revenue at the time of tentative adoption. The total state aid did not change at the time the FY2019 final budget adoption."
"Of the $562,987.00 state aid increase, $392,234.00 (70%) was earmarked for the Hatikvah Charter School. The remaining $170,753.00 went to the District’s programs and services," Valeski said. Charter schools are free, open-enrollment public schools that are required by law to serve all students.
However, as recently as January 2018, the East Brunswick and Highland Park School districts fought the expansion of Hatikvah to a K-8 program, an increase from the earlier status as a K-5 district. At the time, East Brunswick said the expansion would be unfair to the township because "it would provide no benefit to the East Brunswick taxpayers" and would "jeopardize the school district's ability to maintain its programs," according to an article in the Home-News Tribune.
Though he repeatedly has urged a "pause" in the state's support of charter schools, some of them, like Hatikvah, have received increased funding.
Murphy recently signed a bill designed to modernize and equalize the state funding of the state's school districts. It is the first reform of the formula to assign out money to schools in 10 years.
"“New Jersey’s education system experienced eight years of neglect during the previous administration, which underfunded our public schools by $9 billion,” Murphy said. "The necessary adjustments we are making will bring fairness to the system and ensure our school children receive the quality education they deserve," he said.
Over the course of seven years, aid to "over-funded" districts will be reduced and aid to "under-funded" districts will be increased so that all public school districts achieve their appropriate levels of assistance under the formula contained in the School Funding Reform Act by fiscal year 2025.
Under the reform act, the Abbott District schools, the 31 poorest urban or special needs districts, will be allowed to exceed the state imposed 2 percent cap on tax increases without voter approval, to bring their local tax levy up to the expected amount as determined in the state funding formula.
Non-Abbott Districts must still comply with the 2 percent cap in tax hikes.
New Brunswick will receive $133,216,698 for the 2018-19 school, an increase of 5 percent from the $126,873,046 the school district receive this past academic year.
The Middlesex County Vocational Technical Schools will receive a five percent increase from $13,520,974 up to $14,197,023. The Spotswood Schools will receive $313,943 increase, also up five percent.
State aid will drop in some districts, such as Old Bridge Township, which will receive $44,170,566, a decrease of 1.36 from the $44,779,742 that the school district received this past year.
Murphy said the new funding formula is a more balanced approach that will provide more equitable funding distribution.