NJ State Aid Cuts Threaten Program Cuts in Cape May County Schools

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The State of New Jersey has adopted a plan to reduce state funding to eight of the sixteen Cape May County School Districts (Dennis Township, Lower Township Elementary, Lower Cape May Regional, Middle Township, North Wildwood, Upper Township, Wildwood Crest, Wildwood City) cumulatively of approximately $27.5 million over the seven-year life of Senate Bill S-2, of which we are entering the third year. In essence, S-2 reflects the state’s belief they already fund our county more than they should by using a calculation called “Local Fair Share” – an arbitrary calculation that we continue to challenge. As it is now, the state only provides a small percentage of funding sources compared to the percentage our taxpayers provide.
S-2 will generate annual budget deficits that will require significant cuts to the programs and services that have garnered many of the schools of the county the distinction of being some of the most efficiently-operating model programs in New Jersey.
The impact of a revenue loss of this magnitude is nothing short of catastrophic, and over the next few years, considerable and irreversible damage will occur. The effects of yearly reductions in-- or elimination of programs and services essential to a child's well-rounded education are obviously and seriously detrimental. Such reductions have, in fact, already begun and at the start of the 2020-21 school year will escalate. If an immediate halt in the state aid reductions is not implemented, our programs, services, staffing, student supports, academic offerings, athletic and extracurricular opportunities, and unfunded busing will be reduced or eliminated at some point over the remaining five-year life of S-2.
This year (2019-20), the eight districts in the County lost $3.6 million; next year (2020-21) we will lose over $5.0 million and over $6.3 million the following year. If this unfortunate timeline of cuts is fully realized, the damage will indeed be irreparable. Even the unenviable action of raising taxes will never be able to close that gap. This circumstance becomes even more frustrating when one considers the billions of dollars in tourism revenue generated in our county that is sent to Trenton in tax dollars only to receive in return drastic cuts to our state school aid.
This petition is a demand that NJ leaders immediately halt these cuts, while continuing to make whole the districts who needed the aid, and designate the time necessary to fully address the critically-flawed formula on which S-2 is based in order to ensure school aid is distributed fairly to all districts. Regardless of the intentions of this bill, it’s clear that it’s done more harm than good. It is both practical and necessary to reassess the impact of this bill before that harm becomes irreparable.
This petition is an acknowledgement that years of relentless work from our district leaders-- who foresaw the flaws in the funding formula, provided specific and indisputable details through multiple communications and meetings, offered public testimony to both the Senate and Assembly budget committees on this issue, and helped lead multiple protests in Trenton-- has gone ignored.
This petition is an admission that we can no longer sustain these cuts and continue to provide the efficient, comprehensive education we are entrusted and required to deliver.
This petition is an urgent call to action, one which requires the investment and engagement of our entire school community. Please sign it. The future of the students in the entire Cape May County Region, along with the futures of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey students, is at stake.