I just wrote a letter to Gov. Christie’s office here in New Jersey, which I CC:’d to my local newspaper (and here ;^) about the absurdly low amount of student aid we get from the state of New Jersey – enjoy:
To the Editor,
[This is an open letter, which I have sent to the Office of the Governor, Chris Christie]
As districts all around the state prepare to finalize next year’s school budgets, I wanted to draw your attention to the plight of my local school district, the Hopewell Valley Regional School District.
Our school district currently “enjoys” about $600,000 in state aid, and with around 3,850 students being served that averages out to about $156/per student. That is a staggeringly small amount of aid and it places not just the lion’s share of the burden on the local tax payer, it places the entire burden on the local tax payer, minus a few hundred dollars per student.
It is not clear to me that under our current funding model there is anything you, in the Governor’s office can do to lower or school taxes in any meaningful way this coming school year. If you were to double our state aid to $1.2 Million (an inconceivable increase), the local tax payer would still be paying for over 98% of our annual budget.
With almost 4,000 students and an administration that is among the leanest in the state, I don’t think consolidation would achieve any real savings, and the idea of asking teachers to contribute towards their health benefits would fall flat in our district – our teachers have contributed to their health care plans for years. Our administration has run a fairly lean district, and we have a low-level of debt (only 7% of our annual budget goes towards debt servicing). There are no easy fixes for districts like ours.
In my opinion, the only thing that can have an impact on our local school taxes is a fundamental restructuring of the school funding model. An “I” district like ours is, for all intents and purposes, left to our own devices, given almost no support from the state, yet is subject to every regulation and requirement imposed on other districts with as much as eighty-five percent of their operating budget from the state (Newark Public Schools had $672M in aid toward their $799M operating budget).
I would like to invite you visit our district and hold a town hall meeting to discuss the situation of districts like ours. Such a town hall meeting would go a long way towards convincing our “forgotten” neighbors that they are not forgotten by their leaders.
Hopewell Township, NJ
New Jersey State Department of Education: State Aid Allocable To All School Districts, 2011
Hopewell Valley Regional School District: 2011-2012 Budget Presentation 01-18-2011 [Page 11 of presentation]
Newark Public School System: Budget Presentation 2010-2011 [Page 14 of presentation]