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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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10-5-06 EMAILNET
Special Session focus on funding & consolidation emerging Parent & Members Information Packet + what you can do....SAVE THE DATE - Nov 1 - at the Statehouse: GSCS Parents and Members Press Conference in Trenton.

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS

 

EMAILNET 10-5-06

Special Session focus on funding & consolidation emerging

Parent & Members – what you can do…

 

gscs2000@gmail.com                     www.gscschools.org

 

GSCS Quick Facts: Next Board of Trustees Meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 25, 4:30 p.m. in Atlantic City at the Convention Center following the Legislative Session at the Fall Workshop/Room location to be announced. Meetings are open to all – we hope you will take this opportunity to catch up on GSCS efforts.

 

SAVE THE DATE and SHOW UP for:

 

GSCS PARENTS & MEMBERS PRESS CONFERENCE

Re: Special Session & Education Funding & Governance Reform

November 1,  11 a.m., at the Statehouse

                       Details to follow soon…contact cyndywu@gmail.com

 

On Trenton’s emerging focus on school funding and consolidation:

 

REDISTRIBUTION of STATE AID within school districts is under discussion: While the Governor noted a $350M pot from the increased sales tax will be devoted to property tax for “senior citizens and middle-class families and (additional) credit for tenants” his administration and legislators are nonetheless seriously looking at equalizing special education aid. Equalizing this aid, which has always been distributed per individual students’ needs, no matter where they live, could mean that approximately 260 school communities would no longer receive special education aid. These districts, would in effect, be deemed too wealthy to need that aid (if distributed on the same equalized wealth-based formula used by the state today and for the past 15 years or so).GSCS opposes this divisive tool & underscores it would place an additional burden on communities that must be acknowledged for carrying more than their fair share for years.

 

A fact that Trenton is forgetting to take into account? Most of these 250 districts already typically fund themselves up to 95% or more via local taxpayer support. When is enough, enough?

 

SOME KIND OF CONSOLIDATION is likely to occur – see articles below. GSCS supports this kind of programs with the proviso that the option to consolidate is voluntary.

 

TRENTON NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU…

Below is GSCS’ parent & member information packet on the Special Session and ways in which you can participate in this debate which can affect the landscape for New Jersey education for the next ten years. The packet will also be attached separately he- as well as uploaded on www.gscschools.org  for your convenience. If you have any questions, please get in touch with GSCS at gscs2000@gmail.com  or cyndywu@gmail.com .Thank you.

 

GSCS INFO PACKET FOR MEMBERS RE SCHOOL FUNDING REFORM

1)

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS on School Funding, 10-05

New Jersey schools, communities, parents, educators, and state leaders face an enormous challenge today. As part of his property tax reform initiative, Governor Corzine has given legislators the task of creating a new school funding formula and making changes to the state’s school governance apparatus.  Two of the four special legislative committees appointed by the Governor are charged with formulating recommendations for change in these areas.  The time frame for this ambitious effort is tight – the committees have stated they intend to finish their work by November - and changes are targeted to be enacted into law by the end of 2006. GSCS urges you to be proactive and let legislators, the Governor, and newspapers – both local and statewide – hear your concerns. Now is the time. Your voices are the critical key to maintaining quality public education in our state.

 

GSCS KEY MESSAGE POINTS

 

ANY NEW SCHOOL FUNDING AND GOVERNANCE LAWS SHOULD REFLECT GSCS’ OVERRIDING CONCERNS THAT:

 

  • QUALITY EDUCATION SHOULD NOT BE LEFT OUT OF THE DEBATE - EFFICIENCY IS ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE EQUATION. To date, legislative discussion has overwhelmingly focused on cost efficiencies. Effectiveness – performance and quality education – must be an integral part of the debate.
  • OUR SCHOOLS ARE NOT LEVELED DOWN. Vigilance is needed to see that the need to contain costs does not result in legislation that lowers the standard of education for all of our children.
  • CITIZENS OF A DISTRICT HAVE A REASONABLE FINANCIAL STAKE IN THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION. No district should fund schools less than 15% or more than 85% through property tax
  • A TOWN’S ABILITY TO SUPPORT ITS LOCAL SCHOOL BUDGET IS BASED ON A FORMULA FAIR TO ALL DISTRICTS. The formula used to determine state aid should be reworked to reflect the fiscal realities within various districts. At present 45% (a national extreme) of the districts in New Jersey are considered too wealthy to receive regular state education aid (wealth-based aid).
  • STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS AND DISABILITIES RECEIVE STATE SUPPORT AID NO MATTER WHERE THEY LIVE. For example, special education and transportation must not be equalized. Many districts would receive no aid if those categorical programs were funded based on district wealth, rather than on the individual student’s needs (e.g.45% of the regular operating districts would not receive categorical aid for special education).
  • A CITIZEN’S ABILITY TO SUPPORT HIS/HER LOCAL SCHOOL BUDGET IS CONSIDERED. Any legislation should be sensitive to not only the community’s ‘local fair share’ but also to individual residents’ ability to pay.
  • THE RESEARCH IS FULLY DONE PRIOR DESIGNING LAW. Analyze impacts as related to New Jersey districts’ experience in specific; avoid ‘unintended consequences’.
  • SCHOOL DISTRICTS MERGERS BE VOLUNTARY. Encourage replication of shared programs that exist; offer incentives for districts to move in that direction expeditiously.

 

What happens in Trenton will directly affect not only the well-being of your children’s education, but that of your community. Take the time to learn – and do - more, please visit the Garden State Coalition of Schools web site regularly.         (10/05)

_____________________________________________________________

2)

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS

210 West State Street

Trenton, New Jersey 08608

gscs2000@gmail.com

www.gscschools.org

Phone 609 394 2828            Fax609 396 7620

Dr. Marjorie Heller, President                                                                                   Lynne Strickland, Executive Director

 

October 2, 2006

 

Dear Parents:

            Right now the Governor and legislature are in the midst of a landmark process aimed at reducing the state’s high property taxes.  The potential effects of this process are far-reaching, with consequences for your schools and your town. As some of you are aware, S-1701 was passed when school was not in session and those opposed were not given the opportunity to voice their concerns.  As the result property taxes rose statewide and school budgets were defeated in record numbers, resulting in hardships in many New Jersey districts. Now we are faced with the possibility of a set of proposals that will be much more far reaching and will inevitably have a deep impact on quality education. 

 

 The following is a brief summary of the process along with contact information for the policy makers involved.  At this very critical time, it is imperative for parents to be informed, involved and ready to take action to protect quality education and promote equity in school funding.

 

Background

On July 28, Governor Corzine called a Special Session of the Legislature specifically to address the property tax crisis.  As part of the Special Session, the Governor and legislative leadership appointed four bi-partisan joint legislative committees to study various aspects of and remedies for the problem.  The four committees are: Public School Funding Reform, Government Consolidation and Shared Services, Public Employee Benefits Reform and Constitutional Reform and Citizens’ Property Tax Convention.  Each committee began meeting and hearing testimony in August.  They are charged with submitting recommendations by November 15, which Governor Corzine wants to have enacted into law by the end of 2006.  It is not clear yet whether the committees and the Legislature will be able to abide by this timetable.  If the Special Legislative Session does not produce real results, the Governor has already state that he will order a citizens’ constitutional convention to effect property tax reform.  Experts agree that substantive change would probably not occur before 2009.

 

The Committees

School Funding: Senator John Adler (Co-Chair), Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. (Co-Chair), Senator Gerald Cardinale, Senator Joseph V. Doria, Jr., Assemblyman Brian P. Stack and Assemblyman David W. Wolfe.  The committee is charged with:

·        Reviewing and formulating proposals for school funding, including those that:

o       provide State support based on student needs rather than geographic location

o       eliminate disincentives to the regionalization of school districts; control school district spending, particularly administrative spending

o       dramatically tighten the current law limiting increases in school district spending. 

The committee has heard testimony from a variety of experts and representatives of stakeholder groups.  (To see first-round GSCS testimony from September 5, 2006, go to www.gscschools.org, go to left-hand sidebar and click on “Property Taxes, Special Session, and School Funding.”) As yet there is no consensus on what the new funding formula will look like.

 

Consolidation and Shared Services: Senator Bob Smith (Co-Chair),
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (Co-Chair), Assemblyman Robert M. Gordon, Senator Ellen Karcher, Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr , and Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III.
 

The committee will review and formulate proposals that address the sharing of services and regionalization of functions at all levels of government. The committee will also:

·        base its discussions on the CORE agenda proposed by the Speaker of the General Assembly.

·        consider proposals to consolidate or eliminate State agency functions and State agencies or commissions. 

The Committee has heard testimony from a number of different experts from inside and outside New Jersey on municipal and school district regionalization/consolidation/shared services.  Right now, the members seem impressed by the “Maryland solution” which would consolidate all of New Jersey’s school districts into large county-wide districts like those in Maryland, and place the majority of school governance functions in the hands of powerful county superintendents who would, in all likelihood, be political appointees.  It is important to stress that while this solution appears to be the front runner right now, various groups have brought up numerous errors in the impressive cost and performance statistics presented by the Maryland official who testified before the committee.  It is too soon to know what this committee’s final recommendation will be. 

 

Public Employee Benefits Reform: Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (Co-Chair), Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (Co-Chair), Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, Senator William L. Gormley, Assemblyman Kevin J. O'Toole, Senator Ronald L. Rice  

The committee will:

  • review and formulate proposals that address abuses of the system of benefits provided to public employees
  • control the costs to the State and its political subdivisions for public employee retirement, health care and other benefits
  • use as the basis of its discussions the recommendations of the Benefits Review Task Force contained in its December 1, 2005 report, as well as other relevant reports.

This committee has also heard a great deal of testimony from public employee unions and other stakeholders.  (To see first-round GSCS testimony from September 20, 2006, go to www.gscschools.org, go to left-hand sidebar and click on “Property Taxes, Special Session, and School Funding.”)

 

Constitutional Reform and Citizen’s Property Tax Convention: Senator Bernard F. Kenny Jr.(Co-Chair), Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli (Co-Chair), Senator Leonard Lance, Senator Fred H. Madden Jr., Assemblyman Louis M. Manzo and
Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt .  This committee will:

  • review and formulate proposals that address property tax reform through amendments to the Constitution of the State of New Jersey.
  • determine whether amendments to the State Constitution should be recommended to the Legislature for submission directly to the voters or whether such amendments should be referred to a citizen’ property tax constitutional convention.

 

GSCS Positions – see attached ‘GSCS Key Message Points’

The GSCS supports creating a new, more equitable funding formula for all New Jersey’s children.  We also advocate the idea that any regionalization or consolidation be voluntary and subject to voter approval. 

 

What Parents Can Do 

When the committees’ recommendations come out, we may have to mobilize quickly to block ill-conceived legislation.  From now until the committees formulate their recommendations in November, you should:

  • Stay informed.  You can access more information about the Special Legislative Session, including videos or transcripts of the various committee hearings, by going to the Legislature’s website, www.njleg.state.nj.us/, and following the prompt for the Special Legislative Session. 
  • Visit the GSCS homepage, www.gscschools.org  regularly.  Click the box on the right side of the homepage to sign up for the GSCS Parent Network.  Network members receive regular e-mail updates on the work of the Joint Legislative Committees as well as other important news from Trenton
  • Talk to your legislators.  Make your local legislators and the legislative leadership aware of your concerns.  To find your legislators go to the Legislature’s website, www.njleg.state.nj.us/ .  On the left side of the page, under “Members”, click on “Find Your Legislator”.  By following the prompts and entering the name of your municipality, you can find your Senator and Assemblymen with contact information for each one.  You can also contact any member of the four Joint Committees by clicking on “Find Your Legislator”, then following the prompts to the alphabetical list of legislators.

 

We hope that you will join us in the fight to create positive change in Trenton.

3) Garden State Coalition of Schools Parent Network

My name is Toni Hopkins and I am a public school parent from Moorestown, New Jersey. The Moorestown Township School District is a founding member of a statewide advocacy group focused on school funding called the Garden State Coalition of Schools (GSCS). I am a Vice-President and Parent Representative to GSCS as well. This fifteen year old organization represents 110 suburban school districts concerned about quality education for all children in New Jersey and the means used to pay for it.

 

Now New Jersey schools, communities, parents and educators face an enormous challenge.  As part of his property tax reform initiative, Governor Corzine has given legislators the task of creating a new school funding formula and making changes to the state’s school governance apparatus.  Two of the four special legislative committees appointed by the Governor are charged with formulating recommendations for change in these areas.  The time frame for this ambitious effort is tight – the committees have stated they intend to finish their work by November - and the changes are targeted to be enacted into law by the end of 2006.

 

Highly respected by both major parties, key education groups and the press, the representatives of the GSCS have been asked to testify before the legislative committees now meeting in Trenton as part of a Special Legislative Session to deal with property tax reform.

 

Several fundamental requirements should be a part of any new legislation developed:

  • Citizens of a district must have a reasonable financial stake in their children’s education. Any legislation should be sensitive to not only the community’s ‘local fair share’ but also to individual residents’ income capacity as well.
  • No district should fund schools less than 15% or more than 85% through property tax. At present districts like Moorestown receive less than 10% in aid, and those monies are often inconsistent and unreliable. Per pupil aids must be kept current with enrollment fluctuations.
  • The formula used to determine state aid should be reworked to reflect the fiscal realities within various districts. At present 45% (a national extreme) of the districts in New Jersey are considered too wealthy to receive regular aid.
  • The School Construction Act should continue to be funded through a grant system as this has proven to be the only true property tax relief in recent history. Because Moorestown was one of the first districts to apply for funding in the last bond referendum, we were given a substantial amount of money to help defray some of the cost in renovating the three elementary schools and the high school. Many school districts have started building campaigns expecting state funding that is no longer available.
  • Special Education and Regular Education need to be clearly defined so that the costs associated with them can be categorized appropriately.

Parents are an important key to the success of this coalition of parents, board members and superintendent and the primary advocacy message for which it stands: quality education for all public school students in New Jersey.  It is important for all parents to keep informed of education issues discussion at the state and federal levels. We must be vigilant that the need to contain costs does not result in legislation that lowers the standard of education for all of our children. What happens in Trenton will directly affect not only the well-being of your children’s education, but that of your community.

 

I urge you to be proactive and let legislators, the Governor, and newspapers – both local and statewide – hear your concerns. Now is the time. Parents’ voices are the critical key to maintaining quality public education in our state. If you would like to learn more, please visit the Garden State Coalition of Schools web site at www.gscshools.org.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828