|GSCS on State Budget Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Testimony March 2012|
GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS/GSCS
204 West State Street, Trenton NJ 08608
Joint Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee Hearing: State Budget FY2012-2013
March 13, 2012 Montclair State University
Good morning Chairman Sarlo, members of the Committee. My name is Lynne Strickland, and I am the Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.
GSCS appreciates the opportunity to provide input to the legislature on the proposed Fiscal Year 2012-2013 State Budget. Today GSCS represents 100 school districts and over 300,000 public school students statewide, from Bergen County to Camden County.
Primarily suburban, GSCS is a grassroots education advocacy group comprised of parents, board of education members, and school administrators. GSCS has been keeping a focused eye on quality education and school finance issues for nearly twenty years now.
GSCS overall has enjoyed a high success rate in student performance, and our purpose is to see tools continue to be available so that student learning continues to grow. Thank you for the opportunity to provide brief comments before you today on the State Budget for FY2010.
School Funding History and Context: 2012
FYI - Since 1990 there have been 5 different school funding formulas, in between there have been approximately 6 to 7 years of flat funding without the formulas being run, so that enrollment increases and local ability-to-pay criteria were not updated. The list is this: QEA, QEA II 1992, Public School Reform Act (PSRA) 1994, Comprehensive Education Impact and Finance Act (CEIFA) 1996, School Funding Reform Act 2008 (SFRA). More often than not these formulas were only fully funded in their initial year; CEIFA was suspended altogether its last 6 years and the SFRA was only fully funded in its first year. Only federal stimulus funding shored up FY10 school aid, but that was a one-year fix and not available to the State in subsequent years. SFRA is now in its fourth year of not being fully funded.
But the recent economic crisis – dubbed as the worst since the Great Depression of 80 years ago - meant that in year two, the SFRA formula was not to be funded as designed and, even with the temporary prop of the federal stimulus aid, schools faced reductions in programs and staffing. Our members are quick to note that their school budgets are not yet whole from where they were in 2008-2009.
However, last year’s state budget brought back 2% of the 5% school budget ‘take away’ that hit our members so hard. This year’s proposal continues a positive move in a positive direction and so we are beginning to see course corrections in program and staffing, and are hearing the words “restored” and “initiating” programs such as full day kindergarten in East Brunswick.
GSCS has long advocated for increased aid for special education programs. This is also an equitable aid in that it must be spent on the special needs student, no matter where he or she resides. When there is more funding in this category, that means funding for regular education programs does not have to be diverted.
We are particularly pleased to note that the special education student base cost has been elevated in the Governor’s proposed budget to approximately $15,000 per special education student from approximately $11,000 per special education student. FYI - The proposed State Budget for FY10 set Special Education aid at $730,145,733; the FY11 proposal brought that aid down to $423, 649,733. In FY12, Special Education aid climbed back to $711,288,074. Today the FY13 State Budget proposal brings Special Education aid up to $757,471,696.
GSCS continues to advocate for special education funding to increase the ‘categorical’ share of that support. We also continue to be concerned about Charter schools, which create a ‘hole’ in the regular public school budgets. Per current law (more than 15 years old), local suburban property taxes are the main support for charter schools in GSCS communities. It is time to update the charter school law as well as find a workable compromise to fund charter schools to stop the real drain on regular school budgets.
A recent survey (see immediately below) of the GSCS Board of Trustees shows that the proposed State Budget FY ’13, has generally been quite well received with relief and hope for the future, yet there are some exceptions where aid has been reduced or minimally increased. And, always, GSCS is concerned that all students in the state are supported fairly in the budget.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Trustee districts (10)- comments from the GSCS Board Survey on the probable impact of State Aid Proposal for FY’13
FY ’13 - IMPACT POSITIVES
Full day kindergarten
Special Education improvement
Increased staffing, both in regular education and special education
New evaluation process
Capital reserves stabilized
No program cuts
Expand Chinese language
Professional development re Common Core; re evaluation process
FY ’13 - PROGRAM NEGATIVES
Final phase-down of world languages in elementary
Technical and Pre-engineering: on hold
World language: on hold
Shorts capital projects, technology
FY ’13 - ANTICIPATED TAX INCREASES/DECREASES
2.37% (partial use of health waiver)
Garden State Coalition of Schools