Sauickie tells budget committee cumulative effects of school funding cuts are devastating education

Sauickie tells budget committee cumulative effects of school funding cuts are devastating education

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Alex Sauickie told members of the Assembly Budget Committee Wednesday that state funding decisions for schools in New Jersey should never come at the expense of other children’s education or taxpayers. Sauickie urged members to prioritize funding for public schools districts experiencing up to seven years of cuts as result of the Department of Education’s reallocation of aid under state law.

WATCH: Sauickie fights Jackson & Plumsted school funding cuts before budget committee

“I want to ensure this body understands the cumulative effects of what will now be seven years of S2 impacts on these school districts and not just focus on the funding of this year,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said.

In 2018, the state enacted S2, promising a fairer distribution of public school aid, but hundreds of school districts have suffered year-after-year cuts as a result of the law.

“In the case of Jackson, from the start of the S2 cuts, the DOE said the Jackson school district was overfunded by $16 million. This seems to be the root of the problem, especially when you take into account real metrics like student-teacher ratios. In Jackson, the high schools now have classes with 30 to 1. In Plumsted, it’s now 28 to 1 at all levels. These are far from recommended ratios and given the recent reports of both learning loss and psychological needs as a result of Covid, now is the worst time for schools to be operating at these levels,” he said in his testimony.

Sauickie represents 16 school districts. Five districts are either being cut or held flat and overall funding is down almost $1.2 million compared to last year. The biggest losses in the district are Jackson Township, decreasing $4.5 million, and Old Bridge with a reduction of $2.5 million.

“Let’s be clear on what state aid is. State aid is the portion of residents’ income taxes that are paid to the state coming back to support the schools in which their children are to get an education. What you’ll find is that the state aid coming back to these school districts is disproportionate to the income taxes being paid to the state,” he said.

If school districts lose the supplemental stabilization aid that was provided through the Legislature last year, Jackson’s year-over-year loss will increase to more than $8.6 million and Old Bridge would lose more than $3.85 million.

“Jackson was expecting an $800,000 cut. The same thing happened last year where it ended up being three times what they expected. The timing and volatility of the funding make it really impossible for them to operate,” Sauickie said.

Despite stable enrollment, the Jackson school district has been cut more than $20 million over the last seven years and eliminated more than 200 positions as well as sports teams, and increased class sizes, in addition to taking out a $10 million loan from the state. The district also must pay a school monitor because of the loan.

“To highlight the cumulative effects of the S2 cuts, Plumsted, which did see an increase this year, has already let me know that due to cumulative state aid cuts since 19, their district too will now have to request a loan,” he said.

Sauickie suggested the $53 million in state funds allocated to a yet-to-be-built French art museum would be better spent funding schools.

“I ask for your support on behalf of the parents, teachers and most importantly, the children in my district. Please carefully review the budget for items that can help them,” he said.