NEWARK, NJ - In less than a week, residents will vote on the Newark Board of Education (NBOE) school budget, the first time since 23 years ago when the district was run by the state. Newark Public School Board election day to vote on the budget, as well as three school board candidates is Tuesday, April 16.
The Newark Board of Education unanimously approved the 2019-2020 School Budget in March, which totals nearly $1.1 billion.
The budget considers a number of factors including an increase in state funding, rising payment to Newark charter schools and costs to educate children, predominantly those with additional needs, who attend programs outside of the district.
Also reflected in the budget are plans for curriculum and school facility upgrades to improve academic performance and school experience for students, according to Superintendent Roger León.
“Our charge is to take our students from very good to great and for them to be intelligent and contributing residents of Newark and the world. Our investment in them today will yield superior students and citizens in the future,” León said in a statement.
The budget presentation detailed the district's lofty plans and how they expect to fund it. Here are five things to know about the FY 2019-2020 budget:
1. Charter payments projected to increase by $33 million
Charter school spending is projected to reach $288 million for the 2019-2020 school year, about a quarter of Newark Public School’s revenue, if anticipated enrollment is met. The district paid $254.8 million to charters in 2018-2019 and budgeted an additional $10 million for this upcoming school year, in anticipation of more students attending.
“That is a $24 million gap that we are looking at in our budget,” School Business Administrator Valerie Wilson said during the budget presentation in March. The likelihood of that happening is uncertain as charters may not achieve full predicted enrollment. “We found it to be somewhat inflated,” said Wilson.
Over a third of public school students in Newark attend a charter school. Charter schools receive 90% of the per pupil cost of Newark Public Schools. The district keeps the remaining 10% and pays charter schools a portion of local tax funds for the number of Newark students enrolled. Members of the board advocated for NPS to receive more money at a state assembly budget hearing in Trenton last month.
2. New Jersey is giving $24.8 million more than the current school year
Newark Public Schools is getting $24.8 million, a 3.15% increase in state (equalization) aid over the 18-19 school year. However, the district remains underfunded due to a flawed school funding formula that has not been properly implemented for nearly a decade.
Funding from other categories remains unchanged from the 2018-19 school year. One particular area where the district is shortchanged is in transportation aid. Wilson drew attention to the $8.5 million in transportation aid. The cost of transportation for students that include bus tickets (for district and charter students) and buses for students with special needs is around $34 million.
3. NPS central office will invest $38.1 million more directly to schools
The central office will invest a total of $362 million in Newark public schools.
The money covers 2.5% salary increases and will fund a net increase of 92 positions to boost teachers for elementary schools, bilingual education, special education and more. 94% of school budgets are typically spent on salaries and budgets which is not unusual, said Valerie Wilson, “that’s the reality of budgets.”
Funding is also allocated for restoration to reopen schools like Newark Vocational high school and Harold Wilson elementary school.
4. The district wants to increase local tax contribution by $2.7 million
A $2.7 million local tax increase -- the amount of Newark taxpayer dollars that goes directly to the district -- is included in the budget. The increase, according to NBOE Business Administrator Valerie Wilson, remains at the 2% minimum allowed by the state.
This is the first time in 23 years residents of Newark can vote on the Newark Board of Education School budget. The election to vote on the budget, as well as NBOE School board candidates is Tuesday, April 16.
5. Reserved funds help balance the budget for now, but fiscal uncertainty looms
Carefully balancing has left the district with some money on reserve to that would be useful to help them manage for the 2020-2021 school year. Though looming issues investigations and a pending lawsuit Superintendent León inherited from the state could drain a lump sum of existing districts resources.