The 2002 study, School Boards at the Dawn of the 21st Century, conducted by the University of Virginia and sponsored by the National School Boards Association, cited “funding” and “student achievement” as the leading concerns among board of education members nationwide. “Special education,” “improving educational technology” and “teacher quality” followed closely.
In the second decade of the new century, these very same subjects, along with school security and facilities, are still major issues for New Jersey school boards. And each of them is tied inseparably to the number-one concern expressed by board members in the NSBA study: adequate funding.
Let’s be honest: while money does not automatically equate to quality education, it matters significantly. With adequate financial resources, school districts can provide students with quality teachers, facilities and classroom equipment and supplies. Local board members and administrators, who are currently in the midst of the budget season, know this better than anyone.
Last Tuesday, Governor Christie presented his annual budget address to the legislature. His proposed 2013-2014 budget would increase state aid to K-12 education by $97.3 million. District-by-district state aid figures are on the New Jersey Department of Education website at www.nj.gov/education/stateaid/1314.
We appreciate the overall increase in state funding. NJSBA will examine the details of the proposal and, if necessary, will call for adjustments during legislative hearings. After all, maintaining state support for our public schools is critical in light of districts’ current financial circumstances, including the strict 2 percent limit on growth in property tax revenue. In addition, many districts are still dealing with the aftershocks of Hurricane Sandy and even more feel the need to institute security enhancements since the Newtown, CT tragedy.
And let’s not forget sequestration.
If left unaddressed, the 5 percent across-the-board cut to federal funding will affect Title 1 and special education programs in the 2013-2014 school year. NJSBA estimates that the reductions will total more than $40 million in New Jersey. That amount does not include cuts to Head Start programs. In addition, reductions in federal “impact aid,” provided to some 21 New Jersey school districts with large numbers of students whose parents live or work on military installations, are going into effect immediately.
As the 21st Century approached, warnings were issued about “Y2K.” That was the catch-all term for widespread computer breakdowns and the resulting power outages, transportation disruptions and general chaos predicted to take place when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000. It never happened, due in some part to aggressive action to update computer programs.
Some critics now insist that sequestration’s impact is being overstated. Perhaps it will not be of the same magnitude as the chaos predicted in advance of Y2K. But unlike Y2K, sequestration is a reality, and its impact will be felt in many New Jersey classrooms. Congress and the White House need to hear that message from the people in local school districts.
I urge you to visit the National School Boards Association’s “stop sequestration” webpage for information on how you can take action.
These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at [email protected].