An address from state Education Commissioner David Hespe on the state of education in New Jersey, and a standing-room-only Legislative Update featuring state Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and a panel of other prominent legislators, highlighted Workshop 2015, held from Oct. 27-29.

Nearly 8,000 attendees filled the exhibit hall, the learning labs, the action labs and the group sessions at the Atlantic City Convention Center, where the New Jersey School Boards Association held its annual training workshop, along with its co-sponsors, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials.

At his main-stage presentation, “A Conversation with the Education Commissioner,” Hespe talked about the need for school districts and educators to deliver on a promise to graduate students who are ready for college and careers. Using assessments such as the new PARCC examinations, which were administered in the state’s schools for the first time this year, are a key part of keeping that promise, he said.

“With PARCC as (a) tool, we can do great things,” Hespe said.

School District Funding

Hespe also spoke about school finance and the state’s school funding formula. The commissioner noted that state financial support of schools has increased “despite a tough economic climate,” but warned that increasing funding to “unfreeze” the funding formula next year is “probably not a possibility.”

School funding was also one of the topics on the agenda at the legislative update. Chaired by NJSBA Government Relations Director Michael Vrancik, and co-hosted by the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the update featured Senators Jim Whelan, Samuel D. Thompson and Linda R. Greenstein, and Assemblymen Louis D. Greenwald and Jack M. Ciattarelli, in addition to Sweeney.

“I wish I could tell you you’re going to be fully funded by next year, but I’d be shocked if that’s the outcome,” said state Senator Jim Whelan in response to a question about funding, warning that the state may have “more will than wallet.”

Sweeney vowed to initiate a “pretty serious conversation next year about school funding.

“We think the school funding formula works but there’s a whole bunch of pieces that don’t,” he said.