|GSCS State Budget FY 17 Testimony|
GSCS TESTIMONY TOPICS AND BULLETS
TOPICS - Shrinking Aid… Education Reform Initiatives: Doing Much More With Much Less… Pension and Social Security Costs… Help in this Budget Year
BULLET POINTS - This year, FY ’16-’17, the overall increase in direct aid to schools—the dollars that have a critical impact on students—amounts to an increase of just under one percent.
Increases to special education categorical and extraordinary special education aid—about $11 million—are also minimal.
• Flat or minimal funding increases over the past six years mean that many districts are still receiving less aid than they did in FY ’10-‘11
• Reforms, including new teacher evaluations, HIB procedures and PARCC, have carried significant costs, including major investments in time, training and equipment.
• School resources have also been depleted increased costs for health insurance, mandated special education services and transportation, all of which are largely out of districts’ control and routinely exceed two percent.
• Direct aid to schools is also threatened by rising pension and social security costs. Between FY ‘10 and FY’17 (projected), the dollars of state education budget devoted to pension and social security payments rose approximately $4.8B while Direct Aid to Schools amounted to approximately a net $174M.
• We ask that you ease the school funding squeeze by considering an increase in Extraordinary Aid for Special Education, a category that helps our most vulnerable students in every district. This would provide a modicum of across-the-board relief to schools.
GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS
160 West State Street, Trenton NJ 08608
Senate Budget Committee Hearing March 22, 2016: State Budget FY 2016-2017
Good morning Senator Sarlo and members of the Committee. I am Betsy Ginsburg and beginning April 1, I will be Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools/GSCS. My mentor and colleague, Lynne Strickland, who is stepping down as Executive Director, could not be here today, but is well known to you. I am happy to be here today to provide input to the legislature on the proposed State Budget for FY 2016-2017. Thank you for your time.
GSCS’ overarching purpose is to ensure that quality education programs continue to be available to every student. But the long term sustainability of those programs is in serious jeopardy due to ongoing fiscal constraints at the state and local levels.
We are often reminded that aid to education makes up the largest share of the state budget, but that figure does not tell the whole story. This year, the overall increase in direct aid to schools—the dollars that have a critical impact on students-- has been minimal. The total increase in Projected State School Aid (excluding Pre School, Adult, Debt Service and School Construction Aid) proposed in the Governor’s FY ‘16-‘17 budget amounts to just under one percent.*
While the recommendation includes increases to special education categorical and extraordinary special education aid the increases totaled $11M are minimalistic. This aid is notable in its positive effects: unlike most school aid, it reaches all school and legislative districts in the state. In addition, special education is a direct school aid that increases needed funding stability and improves educational well-being for both the children who are eligible for special services and for students in regular education programs.
This squeeze on school districts is made even tighter because of flat or minimal funding increases over the past six years. In fact, many districts are still receiving less aid now than they did before the major across-the-board funding reductions of FY ’10-’11..
Education Reform Initiatives: Doing Much More With Much Less
Over the past several years, public school districts have been required to implement numerous education reforms, including compliance with Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB ) regulations, the roll-out of new teacher/administrator evaluation processes and implementation of PAARC assessment testing. Each one has carried a significant cost that includes major investments in training, equipment and time. One member regional district estimated that preparation for this year’s round of PARCC testing alone would require at least 750 person hours.
Pension and Social Security Costs
Direct aid to schools is threatened by other costs as well. Pension and social security costs have gone up. In fact, between FY ‘10 and FY’17 (projected), the dollars of state education budget devoted to pension and social security payments rose approximately $4.8B while Direct Aid to Schools amounted to approximately a net $174M. Other costs beyond the control of local boards include health insurance, mandated special education services and transportation expenditures, all of which routinely exceed two percent.
Meeting these increasing costs by raising taxes beyond the two percent tax levy cap, cannot be done without voter approval and, for many reasons, is not a viable option in the overwhelming majority of New Jersey communities, so public schools are left to make agonizing choices, including cuts to programs and services. Chronic underfunding has brought many public school districts to the point where quality educational programs are almost impossible to sustain.
Help in this Budget Year
Education funding is a complex issue that defies easy solutions. However, there is one way that we believe the Legislature can help every district in the state—by increasing the allocation for Extraordinary Aid for special education students. Reimbursable costs for these, our most vulnerable children, are far in excess of Extraordinary Aid awards. This shortfall has been exacerbated by a calculation reduction that has cut that aid by nearly 50% in recent years. This depletion of Extraordinary Aid has created a situation where districts are forced to cannibalize regular education programs in order to what is both right and legally mandated for special education students. An increase in this area would provide districts with at least a modicum of relief.
Thank you for allowing us this time to share our concerns with you. As always we look forward to working with you and your legislative colleagues on efforts that will promote high quality, sustainable education for our students.
*Source: New Jersey Department of Education—Office of School Finance: 2016-17 K-12 Projected State School Aid
(excluding Pre School, Adult, Debt Service and School Construction Aid … http://nj.gov/education/stateaid/1617/county.pdf)
ASSEMBLY AND SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE TESTIMONY
MONDAY AND TUESDAY, MARCH 21 AND 22, 2016
Garden State Coalition of Schools