South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker called into the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC this morning to question Gov. Phil Murphy in the wake of this budget presentation yesterday.
As the district awaits word on its 2018-19 state aid, Baker asked Murphy:
As you know there has been a lot of excitement in our community for your starting in office and the work that’s underway, I’m looking forward to state aid numbers for our district today. … I don’t know if this has been raised with you yet — to find out how school districts can engage with you and how to make state aid dollars stretch further by dealing with the incredibly high health care costs that districts bear compared to other state and county employees … the school employees’ health benefits plan which was historically the primary vehicle for health insurance for school employees has had soaring premiums and hasn’t been functioning in the same way as the state plan that covers state, county and municipal employees. This is a way that if you could actually have reform and make it work, those state aid dollars would go further and actually reach the classroom.
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.”
Regarding health care costs, Murphy said that “Educators are taking home less money than they were taking home in 2010 when reforms were jammed down their throats… largely due to health care. We are going to increase the state aid meaningfully to get it increasingly toward fully funding that formula, but we are going to work with communities and with the educators and other public sector unions to find the savings that gives you that 1-plus-1-equals-3 reality where the individual does better but the state and the districts also come out ahead and that’s one way, as you rightfully point out, that we could stretch our dollars.”