Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

South Orange-Maplewood School District to Get $480K More in State Aid for 2018-19

This story has now been updated with a response from South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker. 

The South Orange-Maplewood School District will receive $5,033,885 in operating state aid for the 2018-1019 school year — about $$484,358 more than it received for the 2017-18 school budget but still $1 million less than what the district received in 2009-10, before Gov. Christie made extraordinary cuts to districts across the state.

Yesterday, Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker asked Gov. Phil Murphy about state aid and help with escalating health care costs during a  question and answer sessions on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. Regarding state aid, Murphy responded that for South Orange-Maplewood: “You’re going to get a lot back. The specifics we have not gotten into yet, in fairness.” Murphy said that as his administration works toward “meaningfully funding the school funding formula,” South Orange-Maplewood will be a “big winner.”

“The additional $450,000 in aid from the State is a good step in the right direction,” Baker told Village Green today. “It will help us protect the classroom from cuts that we have seen in budget cycles such as the 2016-2017 school year. I am heartened by the Governor’s pledge to provide adequate funding to our district and to fully fund the school funding formula within the next four years, but  there will need to be adequate revenue for that to happen so I hope our community will engage in statewide advocacy and support proposals to raise necessary revenue.”

In addition, Baker said that, “as I expressed to the Governor when I called in to Brian Lehrer yesterday, the Governor and Legislature can also help us get more dollars into the classroom — AT NO COST to the state budget — if they work with us and other school districts to reform the School Employees Health Benefits Program (where premiums are soaring with double digit increases) and use their regulatory powers to contain health care costs across  the state.”

“Health insurance premiums are not only a major cost driver for our district  but the high premiums in the SEHBP are costing school district employees too,” said Baker. ” On March 10, our Board passed a resolution calling on be Governor and Legislature to take immediate action and ensure that by January 2019 school districts and employees have access to lower cost but high quality benefits that are already offered to state and municipal employees.”
Baker said that South Orange-Maplewood is sharing this resolution with other districts in the state, “and with the support of our two towns, we will be calling on the SOMa community to help us push for these much overdue reforms.”

Regarding the state aid announcement, former Board of Ed member and proponent for school funding reform Jeffrey Bennett expressed disappointment with the announcement.

“I am already meeting SOMA people who are glad to get any increase,” Bennett told Village Green, “but that disregards how inadequate the increases are for NJ’s most under-aided districts (of which we are no longer a member) and how much bigger our own increase would be if Murphy initiated the phase-out of Adjustment Aid.”

In a post on South Orange Maplewood Cares About Schools, Bennett noted that many already over-aided districts were receiving yet more aid from Murphy. Bennet shared that information with Village Green.

“Jersey City was over-aided by $151 million, it is gaining $1,863,714. Pemberton was over-aided by $25 million, it is gaining $658,924. Brick was over-aided by $23 million, it is gaining $750,798,” Bennet wrote and listed a dozen more districts. However, district like “Bound Brook, which was under-aided by -$9,546 per student in 2017-18 is only gaining $539,779, or $300 per student.”

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