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7-22-09 'State gives extra aid for schools an extraordinary boost'
Press of Atlantic City/TRENTON - This year, extraordinary school aid really is extraordinary. The state Department of Education has awarded almost $140 million in so-called extraordinary state aid for 2009-2010 to school districts with disabled children whose education costs exceed $40,000 per year. The awards were a huge increase over last year, when the state budget included just $52 million for extraordinary aid. "We've worked hard on this for years," said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "Extra-ordinary expenses for just one or two children can push a district off the budget cliff."

State gives extra aid for schools an extraordinary boost

Education Writer, 609-272-7241 | Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By DIANE D'AMICO

TRENTON - This year, extraordinary school aid really is extraordinary.

The state Department of Education has awarded almost $140 million in so-called extraordinary state aid for 2009-2010 to school districts with disabled children whose education costs exceed $40,000 per year. The awards were a huge increase over last year, when the state budget included just $52 million for extraordinary aid.

"We've worked hard on this for years," said Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "Extra-ordinary expenses for just one or two children can push a district off the budget cliff."

More than $3.3 billion is spent statewide on services for disabled children, with 57 percent paid by local school districts, according to a New Jersey School Boards Association 2007 report. Almost 40 percent of the costs are spent on tuition and transportation for the 10 percent of disabled students who are sent to programs outside of their home school district. A state school funding formula provision to help districts pay those extra costs has been chronically underfunded.

Districts must apply for the aid and show their costs.

Galloway Township in Atlantic County received $396,150. Superintendent Douglas Groff said the district has one person who tracks the costs both for students in outside placements and students in the district who get extra services.

"We do have a couple of high-cost, out-of-district placements," he said. "We try to keep most students in the district, but even then if they get extra services such as PT (physical therapy) or OT (occupational therapy), the costs add up."

Greater Egg Harbor Regional will get $555,530 in extraordinary aid, the largest allotment in Atlantic County. Superintendent Adam Pfeffer said his costs are primarily tuition and transportation for students in out-of-district placements.

"We don't have that many, but the costs add up, especially if the student also needs an aide," he said. "It's a costly population."

Strickland said the aid demonstrates an effort by the governor and state Legislature to help control property taxes and recognize the effect of special education costs on districts.

"This absolutely helps keep property taxes down," she said, adding that the aid is still child-centered since it is allocated based on the actual costs of serving individual children, not the size of the district.

Sea Isle City, in Cape May County, for example, will get $206,152 in extraordinary aid. The district's total enrollment for 2008 was just 66 students, including two with autism.

The state Department of Education has encouraged districts to develop more programs in their hometown schools, which can be less costly.

Greater Egg Harbor Regional plans to bring back about a dozen students who had been sent to the Atlantic County Special Services School. That represents two classes, since those students are required to have a smaller teacher-student ratio.

"We have the space, and it will save us about $1 million," Pfeffer said. "We started them here this summer."

E-mail Diane D'Amico:

DDamico@pressofac.com

Posted in Press on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:10 am Updated: 4:02 am.

ATLANTIC COUNTY

Absecon: $8,869

Atlantic City: $445,898

Buena Regional $157,679

Egg Harbor City: $16,450

Egg Harbor Twp.: $377,436

Estell Manor: $5,012

Galloway Twp.: $396,150

Greater Egg Harbor $555,530

Hamilton Twp.: $109,396

Hammonton: $119,739

Linwood: $37,459

Mainland Reg.: $147,978

Margate: $11,152

Northfield: $29,300

Pleasantville: $2,098

Somers Point: $32,902

Ventnor: $6,495

Weymouth Twp.: $16,068

CAPE MAY COUNTY

Dennis Twp.: $64,905

Lower Cape May: $27,884

Middle Twp.: $52,063

Ocean City: $20,446

Sea Isle City: $206,152

Wildwood Crest: $1,723

Woodbine: $345

CUMBERLAND COUNTY

Bridgeton: $64,525

Cumberland Reg.: $80,418

Downe Twp.: $6,590

Fairfield Twp.: $20,084

Lawrence Twp.: $27,620

Maurice River Twp.: $10,560

Millville: $159,531

Vineland: $571,564

SOUTHERN

OCEAN COUNTY

Barnegat Twp.: $261,967

Eagleswood Twp.: $11,889

Lacey Twp.: $173,519

Little Egg Harbor: $296,286

Long Beach Island: $19,491

Ocean Twp: $10,977

Pinelands Reg.: $44,035

Southern Reg.: $109,612

Stafford Twp.: $285,645

Tuckerton: $9,413

SALEM COUNTY

Pittsgrove Twp.: $18,846

 


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



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