TRENTON – Everyone wants the best education for children, but with the state struggling to balance its budget, and its decreasing ability to fund public school programs, parents, educators and school administrators are about to face cuts and reduced services like they have never before seen in the New Jersey public school system, according to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA).
Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to cut more than $800 million in state aid from K-12 public schools. This follows his February announcement of a cut of $475 million in aid to schools to balance the state budget. Although the method he proposes to follow for the additional cuts is controversial and may be legally challenged, such deep cuts will nevertheless ensure that parents and taxpayers will pay more for fewer school-provided services, according to NJASA.
“Certain cost increases are outside our control,” notes Dr. Richard Bozza, NJASA executive director. “Even with no new programs, expenses will increase due to a combination of higher replacement costs from inflation, cost-of-living increases and existing salary contract commitments.” To compensate, he notes, the only alternatives open to most districts are cuts in both academic and extracurricular programs and freezes on any new hiring, potentially affecting class sizes.
Bozza categorizes the expected district response to fall into four key areas:
• Privatization of non-educational services. Districts will look at private alternatives for support services including transportation, custodial, nursing and cafeteria services.
• Fees for services. Parents will be asked to provide the extra funding needed to support student participation in ongoing programs. This may include athletic uniform, field trip and club activity fees.
• Decreased services. Schools will consider eliminating popular but less critical services such as cocurricular activities, junior varsity programs, and some language, art and music programs.
• Increased class size. Teaching salaries continue to be the largest portion of a district’s budget and schools will try to reduce staff through attrition and increased use of current staffing allocations.
• Diminished support services. Guidance counselor and other administrator positions may also be cut.
Bozza states, “The budget decision has been made in Trenton, but the tough decisions are made at the school board level. Each community will be affected differently, but without a doubt, most districts will have to consider layoffs and program cuts.”
He encouraged parents to stay involved in the decision-making process because program cuts need to reflect local priorities.
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