SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – A state aid package proposed by Governor Phil Murphy last week has the South Plainfield School District, for the second consecutive year, set to receive a significant reduction for fiscal year 2021. Additionally, South Plainfield is the only one of Legislative District 18’s (L.D. 18) seven school systems facing a cut.
“The reduction in aid handed down by Governor Murphy this year is one of the most irresponsible acts I have seen against the educational obligations we have for all children in the state, not just selected districts.” said Doug Chapman, president of the South Plainfield Board of Education (SPBOE).
On Feb. 27, Gov. Murphy unveiled a $40.9 billion budget for the state, proposing a plan to boost total statewide aid by 4-percent while still imposing cuts on close to a third of New Jersey’s nearly 570 school districts – including South Plainfield.
The state, said Chapman, has cut South Plainfield’s aid by almost $1.1 million in the past two years, with the district last seeing a year-to-year increase in 2018-2019 under former Republican Governor Chris Christie’s administration. For 2020-2021, the state aid reimbursement for the borough school district has been proposed at $8,256,458 – a 9-percent decrease over the current year’s $9,103,277.
“Our business office, administrators and principals have been working very hard designing our budget for the 2020-2021 school year, which is required to be submitted to the county for approval this Friday,” said Chapman, adding, “This irresponsible cut being announced a week before the budget is due to be submitted is insane.”
While some 193 school districts – including South Plainfield – will most likely face a decrease under Murphy's school funding plan, others, including many in Bergen, Passaic, Morris and Essex counties could see their state aid rise for the third consecutive year. Additionally, while South Plainfield is facing a reduction in aid, the six other school districts in 18th L.D. – East Brunswick, Edison, Highland Park, Metuchen, and South River, along with the Middlesex County Vocational – are all slated to receive increases ranging from 3- (Highland Park) to 19-percent (Edison).
“I find it very hard to comprehend how surrounding school districts in our legislative district can get enormous increases and we get a sudden major reduction,” Chapman said, noting that East Brunswick is set to receive $2.4 million, Edison, $4.3 million, and South River, $2.06 million. “So, effectively, they took money from educating our children and gave to educating [those] children.”
State aid is broken down into different sub-categories; for the current year, South Plainfield’s $9 million-plus reimbursement is as follows: $5,608,651 - equalization aid, $2,230,194 in special education aid, $112,479 in security aid, and $305,134 in transportation aid. In many cases, districts rely on this funding to pay for new textbooks, updated curriculum, security and safety, teacher professional development, and general operating expenses.
At a time when school districts are struggling to work off a mandated 2-percent budget-to-budget increase while, at the same time, having to fairly compensate teachers, offset rising health costs, increase technology needs, and advance overall education into the new world, the state, said the board president, should be stepping in to help, or at least not hurt.
“I urge everyone to aggressively reach out to our legislators and ask them why the children of our neighboring towns are more deserving than the children in our town,” said Chapman, adding that the reduction in state aid is, ultimately ‘a bottom line loss of revenue that can’t be recouped.’
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