Testimony--Senate Budget Committee--Dalton--3-19

Gerard Dalton

Superintendent of Schools, Brick Township Public Schools

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Testimony - March 28, 2019

 

 

Good morning to members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak about school funding. My name is Gerard Dalton, I am the  Superintendent of Schools for the Brick Township School District. Brick is a K-12 district in Ocean County that serves a diverse community of approximately 8,500 students. I am also a

resident of Asbury Park and have served as a school board member in that district. For nearly

27 years, I have worked as an educator in our state and have done so with great pride and

passion toward meeting the needs of each student. Your time and willingness to hear my

concerns on behalf of Brick Township Schools is deeply appreciated.

 

The implementation of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) of 2008 with the current changes implemented with S2, draw attention to the calculation of Local Fair Share (LFS). I implore you to postpone the further implementation of SFRA and S2 to allow for deeper examination of well-intentioned formulas that will contribute to severe negative consequences for so many students of New Jersey.

 

As this relates to Brick Township, we are a unique community. Depending on where you begin

your tour of the community, you will find a wide disparity between the residences and incomes

of our average homeowners and those of the community's waterfront seasonal residents. This

disparity makes the application of SFRA from 2008 moving forward questionable. SFRA relies

the weighting of 50% property wealth and 50% income wealth.

Coastal communities suffered catastrophic losses in 2013 with Hurricane Sandy. Following the

storm, Brick Township lost approximately $600 million in ratables, yet in the following year our

local fair share increased. Considering the significant loss of ratables, and in some cases,

residents and income, the anticipated increase in local fair share is inexplicable. Seven years

after Hurricane Sandy, Brick Township is still faced with an overall loss of over $300 million in

ratables with still-damaged homes and a high level of foreclosures.

The aggregate income or district wealth that serves as the second factor in determining local fair

share is also subject to question. A review of these factors over the past ten years indicates that

the rate of change for property wealth and income wealth varies greatly and may not be

implemented as originally intended.  A review of students at-risk provides insight as to the

number of families at or below the poverty level. In the first year of SFRA, Brick had 16.56% of

its students designated as at-risk. Although our enrollment has declined, the number of

students designated as at-risk has been on the rise increasing along with other factors for our

students with the greatest need.

 

● At-risk students (free and reduced lunch) population has increased from 16.56% in

2008-09 of the district population to 30.05% in 2017-18. (20% of the total school

population was clearly identified in NJ Department of Education documents dating back

to the implementation of SFRA with the “concentration effect”.)

● Homeless population in the district has increased from 13 students in 2010-11 to 166

students in 2017-18.

● Limited English proficient students have increased over 100% in just three years from

127 students in 2015-16 to 256 in 2017-18

● Special education continues to trend above the state average at 20% or above.

 

 

The recent changes to school funding has resulted in a loss of equalization aid that will be

devastating to the Brick Schools. Should the cut in aid continue on the same path as

prescribed, class sizes will increase to numbers that will not be physically feasible in our

classrooms. In many cases, we are already nearing 30 students in classes and those numbers

will continue to rise. We remain concerned that with our increase of students at-risk and in other

categories, our ability to best meet their needs will be severely impacted. The loss of

approximately 290 jobs and the elimination of programs will impact the educational system and

community now and for future generations.

 

New Jersey’s has always been a leader in considering school funding methods that keep our

educational system focused on growth. The current calculations of local fair share raise too

many questions to be ignored. I ask for you to consider suspending further implementation S2

in order to further review of its impact when coupled with with the flaws that exist in SFRA. Your time and willingness to listen are appreciated.

 

Gerard Dalton, Superintendent

Brick Township Public School District

gdalton@brickschools.org

(732)785-2300 - phone