|GSCS Budget Testimony FY'22|
Testimony submitted to the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees...'
Budget Testimony Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee April 2021 The Garden State Coalition of Schools would like to thank the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for the opportunity to provide testimony on the FY’22 budget. The COVID crisis has traumatized the New Jersey educational establishment. It will take time, effort and thought to treat the academic and social/emotional aftereffects of that trauma. The influx of Federal relief money will go a long way in helping school districts meet the challenges of the post-COVID environment. But those funds, while welcome, are one-time revenue sources. The ongoing movement towards full funding of the SFRA formula, a commitment endorsed by the Governor and Legislature, is the only way that districts will be able to provide the personnel and programs that our students need going forward. While we are pleased that many of our districts will receive state aid increases in the FY ’22 Budget, we remain concerned about the fate of the approximately 200 districts that will lose funding as part of the adjustment aid draw-down mandated by S-2. We suggest that you consider the remedy proposed in Senator Oroho’s bill, S3657, which would prevent state aid cuts to those districts in the 2021-2022 school year through the appropriation of federal relief funds. At this critical time for all educators, we cannot ignore the needs of the students in those 200 districts. We applaud the extra $50 million appropriation for Extraordinary Aid for Special Education, but believe that even more is necessary. The pandemic has exacerbated the plight of many of our most vulnerable special education students. Districts will be faced with unexpected costs for their care and education, especially for those students requiring education services in excess of the established thresholds for Extraordinary Aid reimbursement. In the decade before the pandemic, those costs (out-of-district student placements, highly individualized services and therapies) were increasing well in excess of two percent every year. We are legally and morally obligated to provide for our most vulnerable students. Increased Extraordinary Aid will help us do so. And finally, while it is not the within the specific purview of this committee, we ask that the Legislature as a whole refrain from onerous and costly educational mandates at this time. Teachers, administrators and school personnel are working hard to bring students and families—especially those in poverty and at high risk--through this traumatic time and restore and rebuild academic and psychological health. Educators are fully engaged in “meeting students where they live” every day in every district. As we go forward into the post-pandemic environment, they will be able to do that essential job most effectively if they are not hindered by well-intentioned, but burdensome legislative mandates. Thank you for your consideration. Elisabeth Ginsburg Executive Director Garden State Coalition of Schools