Chesterfield Kids Deserve School Funding Now: Tax Breaks Can Wait
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Chesterfield School District is expected to receive an additional $1,582,592 in state aid for the 2018-2019 school year. We have gone from 9.5% to 58% of our state aid due to the persistence and relentless hard work of many community members and elected officials in the fight for fair school funding.
The undersigned Chesterfield residents request that all the additional funds we will receive for the 18-19 school year should be absorbed into the school budget and capital reserve in order to rectify the chronic underfunding that has impacted the children of this community. We request that any tax breaks being considered should be postponed for at least one school year.
We respectfully request that you consider the following as you determine how these funds will be spent:
- Settle the Teachers' Contract: Teachers impact student achievement more than any other aspect of schooling. Our teachers and staff deserve a fair contract and funds should be allotted to settle their expired contract as quickly as possible. They should receive at least the county average settlement.
- Improve Curriculum and Instruction: During years of underfunding, curriculum and instruction has been shortchanged. More curriculum kits and resources should be purchased where they have been reduced in past years and shared among teachers. Professional development for staff is needed to properly implement the board-approved curriculum and continue the program review cycle. We need to expand the arts, music, STEM, and Gifted & Talented programs. Supplemental resources are needed to sufficiently challenge all learners at all levels throughout the content areas in order to provide an education that is equitable with the other Northern Burlington sending districts.
- Keep Class Sizes Small and Ensure Proper Staffing of Teachers and Paraprofessionals: The school needs to be properly staffed with an adequate number of teachers, guidance counselors, physical education, art, library, and music teachers to meet the rigorous requirements of the NJ Student Learning Standards and NJ statutes. We need district-employed paraprofessionals, not outsourced employees, to support some of our most challenged students.
The New Jersey State Constitution guarantees a “thorough and efficient education” for all New Jersey children. Each year the state calculates the “Adequacy Budget” or the amount of money to provide the constitutionally-mandated thorough and efficient education for every school district. Chesterfield has, until now, been unable to reach the adequacy budget and has a cumulative adequacy deficit that has in turn negatively impacted the curricula, programming, and resources at Chesterfield Elementary School. Even with taxpayers trying to make up for the severe state underfunding, our school has operated with an Adequacy Deficit of over $5.8 million dollars in just the last three school years. That is a three-year cumulative deficit of over $7500 per student.
Our teachers and staff have done more with less, and our community has rallied by paying more than our local fair share of taxes and by fundraising extensively. Despite our community’s best efforts, our children have been deprived of an education comparable with surrounding communities. The education and welfare of the children must be the primary focus and be rectified first and foremost.
This fight for fair funding is not over and although we may possibly be on the path to a fair solution, it is premature to offer tax relief at this early stage. There are no guarantees that we will receive a higher percentage of state aid next year even if A2/S2 is signed into law. If the state does not pull in the projected revenues, then they will not have the funding to increase school aid. We must use this funding wisely and for the benefit of Chesterfield’s children while considering the long-term goals of full funding and tax relief.
Thank you for your time, attention, and service to our community.
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