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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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6-12-06 EMAILNET - Extraordinary Special Education student aid; FY07 Budget 'crunch' is on; news clips
GSCS comments on legislature’s conversation re: addressing its failure to meet its legislated promise to fund extraordinary aid for special education students whose individual program annual costs exceed $40K.




www.gscschools.org        gscs2000@gmail.com         


GSCS comments on legislature’s conversation re: addressing its failure to meet its legislated promise to fund extraordinary aid for special education students whose individual program annual costs exceed $40K.


Since 2003, this category of aid has not increased one cent, even though statutorily promised costs to local districts call for updating this particular aid annually. Today, according to the Office of Legislative Services, $174M+ should be appropriated for these costs to local districts per the state’s own law. Since 2003 this aid has been frozen at $52, meaning that the legislature’s inaction to fund this mandated program aid, now requires local taxpayers to fund the additional difference of $122+ .


When legislators ask why property taxes are rising beyond school caps, this is a prime example that responds to that question. When state formula school aid is held flat, the legislature drops the ball and taxpayers – and often other school programs – have to pick it up. Thus another increase in local property taxes. When the state doesn’t contribute its legislated share, there’s no way around it. School funding formula aid has been held flat altogether since 2002. That, combined with ever-increasing cost drivers - health benefits, utilities, insurances - that increase at high rates well above caps, clearly lead to generating larger property tax increases.


Every year since 2003, the legislature has talked about funding this category or extraordinary aid for special education students, but in the end has not followed through. This is a very clear violation of its legislated promise to fund our neediest students, as well as a literal passing of the buck to local communities. The result?


ü      Increased property tax burden – now at $122M - directly relating to legislative inaction.

ü      Destabilization of local school budgets, especially due to the unpredictable nature of disabled student enrollments by locale.

ü      Regular education student families and disabled student families are pitted against one another since they wind up having to fight over dwindling education dollars.


Kudos go to Senator Barbara Buono who has brought this issue to the fore during FY07 Budget discussions. Recognizing that the tie between school funding aid and property taxes is “inextricably linked” – combined with understanding the valid and valuable help extraordinary aid provides to all students within all districts – Senator Buono is working hard to get some additional aid in this category for FY07, saying that an increase would be a desperately needed sign of a “good faith” beginning to show communities that show Trenton is responding to property tax needs, starting now.


Senator Buono has also suggested where to look for funding this need, finding some additional surplus in the UEZ (Urban Enterprise Zones); when extraordinary aid was full funded in 2003, the Appropriations Act at that time directly linked that aid on an increase in the realty transfer tax. Whatever potential there is for securing funds for extraordinary aid for our neediest students, it is likely that however this aid might be funded,  it will be subject to change in next year’s budget cycle since school funding overhaul has been promised to be on Trenton’s  table as soon as the summer. Thus the administration’s concern that the legislature not seek ‘one-shot’ solutions that will dig holes in FY08’s budget should not be relevant in this case.

On the Homepage today….FY 07 State Budget – The “Crunch” is on

News Clips
Star Ledger - Education department anxious for next boss Long transition a drag on staff and reforms Monday, June 12, 2006

New York Times - Corzine Shifts to Collegiality on the Budget 6-12-06

Star Ledger - Property tax relief is eye of Corzine's budget storm...Lawmakers seek a give & take before they back spending plan Monday, June 12, 2006

Editorial Asbury Park Press - Child placement disparity Saturday, June 10, 2006

Editorial - Crack down on perks Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 06/12/06

The Record-Preschools fail to clear teachers Monday, June 12, 2006
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Weekend News Clips re Property Tax & School Funding issues
Articles & editorials from The Record, Press of Atlantic City, Courier Post, Gannett, Star Ledger, NY Times, Asbury Park Press. Read to keep up to date on State Budget FY07 pressures and the overriding question of what to do with property tax revolution exacerbated by 5 years of frozen state formula aid - combined with the recognition that school funding needs to be stabilized so that our schools don't get leveled down...Includes article where NAACP criticizes Governor Corzine for holding Abbott to flat funding for next year.
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NEW to our website...WHAT'S THE 'BUZZ' ?
While it is true that GSCS values its grassroots member input and often incorporates member thoughts & suggestions into our advocacy, GSCS does not necessarily agree or disagree with what people send in to us in principle. Nor does publishing members letters, email to us indicate a board position. But we do feel its important that the statehouse see what people are saying about its policies in a wider forum...Send in your feedback on Trenton ambience, here's some representative 'buzz' for starters.
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6-9-06 Star Ledger ' Salary review bill hits roadblock'
Education Department tells panel it lacks manpower to check every school chief's contract
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Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608