FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Flemington-Raritan Regional Board of Education approved an increase in its full-day Integrated Preschool Program tuition rate, to $7,000 per year, at a meeting earlier this month.

According to a program flyer posted on the district’s website, the school year 2020-2021 tuition is broken down so that parents will pay $700 per month for 10 months for a 4-year-old child’s education. The rate for school year 2019-2020 was $600 per month.

“There is an increased cost of maintaining a high quality preschool education,” Superintendent Kari McGann said in a telephone interview last week.

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One increasing cost is transportation, as the district needs to provide one preschool aid per every three students on every school bus, McGann said. The district also recently needed to hire additional autism teachers.  

She added that another reason for the hike in rates is the cuts in state aid occurring as a result of Senate Bill S-2, which was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on July 24, 2018. This bill revised the school funding formula, which impacts the calculation of aid for 2019-2020 and the subsequent five school years.

“We had to look at our costs, and then look at where we receive revenues in order to balance our budget,” she said.

According to public information provided by the NJ Department of Education, the district lost $225,571 in Fiscal Year 2020, compared to what the district received in Fiscal Year 2019.

McGann noted that the district is one of 58 school districts and one municipality which recently filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to the New Jersey Department of Education, seeking information on how the state aid formula is being calculated. These schools argue they are being negatively impacted because of these reductions in funding for their respective districts.   

Despite this change in tuition rate, children will still enroll for class either from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., McGann said. The actual program is not expected to change.

“We did look around to see what other areas are offering in terms of tuition, and we are still below what others are offering,” she said.

Copper Hill Elementary School is the only school out of three elementary schools in the district that offers the preschool program. Enrollment totals for preschool fluctuate around 79 total 3- and 4-year-old children, McGann said.    

Applications for entry into the preschool lottery system are due by March 15.

“The program seeks to provide a safe and nurturing learning experience in which children can play and learn,” the district website says. “Children identified by the Child Study Team as eligible for special education and related services and general education peers are placed together in an integrated learning environment that utilizes a developmental approach.  Children are immersed in a variety of planned activities that promote readiness skills, language and social/emotional growth.”