PATERSON, NJ – The amount of money that Paterson Public Schools spent on each city student in 2010-11 fell by more than five-percent, according to the annual report cards issued by the New Jersey Department of Education.
In 2009-10, the Paterson district had spent $20,229 per student, but that dropped to $19042 in 2010-11, the report cards show. That was the result of the Christie administration’s decision to cut state funding to local school districts that year by about $1 billion. Paterson took a heavy $80 million hit that resulted in the elimination of the World Languages program in elementary schools, the decimation of the district’s art, music and library programs at elementary schools, and cuts in special education programs that ended up violating state requirements.
The report cards normally are issued in the winter, but were delayed this year. The state revised the way it calculates the cost per student to include things like debt payments on construction and pension contributions, according to a story on nj.com.
Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, an advocacy group, said the revised calculations pushed higher the cost figures for many suburban schools and undermined the argument that those districts were much more cost-efficient than urban ones.
The report cards also showed that Paterson faculty members are paid about 10 percent less than the state median. In 2010-11, the median salary for Paterson faculty members was $57,243, while the state median was $63,851, the report cards said.
Sterling said one of the reasons Paterson’s numbers were lower was the comparatively high turnover rate among city teachers. Not as many of them stick around long enough to get the top levels of the pay scale as do teachers in suburban districts, she said.
Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association, the union that represents city teachers, said Paterson’s faculty salaries were so much lower than elsewhere in New Jersey because the district has not given raises in the past two years. In addition to being without a contract, city teachers have not received the incremental increase they are supposed to get for increased service time as stipulated under the previous contract, he said.