Testimony Before the New Jersey Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness
Kingsway Regional High School, Cafeteria East
Friday, January 27, 2017
By Joseph Meloche, EdD, Superintendent, Cherry Hill Public School District
Members of the committee, colleagues, and community members, my name is Joseph Meloche, I am the proud superintendent of the Cherry Hill Public School District in Camden County. I am grateful for the opportunity to address the committee and to humanize the impact the current approach to school funding has on the children of the Cherry Hill School District.
Cherry Hill is an incredible community in which to live and to work and especially to raise a family. Cherry Hill is where I grew up, where I attended school, and where my wife and I are raising our four children. The Cherry Hill School District is a wonderfully diverse tapestry of families of so many different backgrounds and means. Among our 11,254 children, 57 languages are spoken at home, more than 2,500 are bilingual, and in our six Title I schools, nearly 1 in 3 children are on Free or Reduced Lunch.
Our community supports education, in fact, our community demands a top quality education for each of our children. I am incredibly proud of our outcomes and our successes and our test scores and the external validation that we received – in fact, we were notified yesterday that the Cherry Hill School District was named a State District of Character!
The Board of Education in Cherry Hill, as a fluid body has maintained focus on student achievement and on fiscal responsibility. We have taken advantage of myriad opportunities to partner with the township on projects and squeeze everything we are able from our resources.
But we are at a crossroads – the 81% of our budget that is funded by our community as a result of the disproportionate amount of state aide that we receive is negatively impacting our children. I currently have Advanced Placement classes at the high school level in excess of 40 students. We have eliminated staff, we have eliminated professional development opportunities, we have eliminated extra-curricular opportunities, we have frozen spending, and we have even heralded the nostalgic value of chalk in one of our middle schools instead of installing white boards. We allow students to carry more books because we have lockers that are unusable and must be replaced, just not yet. We have buildings that are tired at best – in fact, I had a legislator suggest creating a crisis in the community by allowing a building to be condemned to shed light on the inadequacy of the current state of funding. We are at a crisis. Today. We bandage and polish and shine and accommodate and explain to our parents that we are focusing on instruction and relationships and outcomes – which are critical and in which we are so successful – and we ask them look beyond the facilities, and the pot holes, the equipment that is not replaced and innovative programs that are not pursued. That while our neighbors have full day kindergarten, or one to one technology initiatives, we do not.
Fair funding? On behalf of the Cherry Hill School District, I want equitable funding. I want funding based on who we are today, in 2017, not who we were in 2005, or 1995, or 1985. I want the legislature to uphold the commitment that was established in the adoption of the funding formula
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the committee. Thank you for your time and your willingness to support children.