Call it persistence, dedication, commitment…or all three. I consider it “being aggressive” in the political arena. And it produced results when the Governor and Legislature agreed to amend the 2013-2014 state budget, saving school districts millions of dollars.
NJSBA and local school boards played a major role in securing this important budgetary change, which reduces the School Development Authority (SDA) assessment by $7.4 million. These are dollars that can now go back to the classroom.
As I explained in my April 30 Reflections column, the SDA assessments are charge-backs to non-Abbott school districts for principal and interest on grants they received through the state’s 2000 construction act. Initially, the 2013-2014 state budget would have increased the fees by an incredible 62 percent—resulting in a net loss in state funding for almost half of New Jersey’s school districts.
The $7.4 million adjustment, reflected in the final budget, ensures that no district experiences a loss.
Changes of this type do not happen by themselves. They result from working hard, aggressively pursuing a goal, and making persuasive arguments. NJSBA’s Governmental Relations staff consistently addressed the SDA assessment issue during meetings with lawmakers and the Governor’s counsel. School boards across the state adopted resolutions describing the consequences of the fee hikes and contacted their legislative representatives on the issue.
Our voices were heard, and we thank Governor Christie and the legislature for addressing our concern.
It was a good note on which to end a school year that had been marked at various times by tragedy, hope and progress.
Looking ahead to next year, we will build on this progress.
In the fall, NJSBA will release major reports from its Special Education Task Force and School Security Task Force.
Within the next school year, we will launch Sustainable Jersey for Schools, a certification program for school districts that will provide information and resources to improve efficiency, save money, cut waste and advance STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
We will also continue to reenergize the county school boards association meetings by offering interesting and timely topics, informative speakers and effective training in comfortable venues. As I have said many times, “Training is the heart of NJSBA, and student achievement is its soul.”
And we will continue to focus on our effectiveness in the political arena. Always remember, what takes place in the State House dramatically affects what takes place in the schoolhouse! Accomplishing our mission requires NJSBA and local school boards to be steadfast advocates for public education.
The end of the school year provides an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments. A good organization will go no further and merely rest on its laurels. A great organization (which we are working to become) should move forward, always looking for ways to improve. That’s the direction we have set for NJSBA.
These conclude my Reflections for the 2012-2013 school year. My weekly message will return in September. Until then, you may share your thoughts by contacting me at [email protected].