NJEA’s elected officers, President Wendell Steinhauer, Vice President Marie Blistan and Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller, called on the Legislature today to fully fund the state’s public schools according to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) and to provide immediate relief for underfunded districts for the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2018). The Legislature will discuss the education budget for FY 2018 with the Department of Education on Monday. NJEA’s officers issued the following statement:
“We urge the state Legislature to fully fund our public schools and run the school funding formula prescribed in SFRA. On behalf of students, parents and educators, we also demand immediate aid for ‘super-growth’ and other districts facing fiscal crises during the 2017-18 school year. The Legislature must immediately provide this aid during the budget process, as this is not a problem with the formula, but a problem caused by not running the formula. All children deserve fair treatment, and that starts with legislators. We will not rest until all public schools have received the funding they need to give every student a chance for success. We demand they are provided every dollar they are entitled to under the law.
“For the past eight years, we have proudly fought for fair and equitable funding of the state’s public schools. SFRA is nationally recognized for its potential to provide adequate funding for the education of all children. It’s a model law that many states look to imitate for their school funding formulas. Unfortunately, here in New Jersey, politics have taken precedence over students. Gov. Christie has never fully funded SFRA since taking office in 2010. Instead, Christie, in partnership with Sen. Sweeney, has underfunded SFRA by nearly $8 billion, an act of gross negligence.
“We will accept nothing less than what our students deserve. When districts scale back after-school programs, students miss valuable experiences. When districts cut teachers and educational support professionals, class sizes go up. When students can’t play sports after school, they miss important developmental opportunities. When the Legislature doesn’t provide the funds required under SFRA, schools are not able to meet the constitutional requirement to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to the students they serve. The Legislature cannot let this happen. It must intervene, and the time to do so is now. We cannot afford to wait, our communities cannot afford to wait, and most important, our children cannot afford to wait while Christie and Sweeney allow our state’s most important asset to shrivel on the vine.
“We are encouraged that many school districts and communities have joined us to voice what we have always called for – full funding of SFRA to enable all students to meet their full potential. We hope that their presence will help lawmakers understand the vast number of children impacted by the failure to make school funding a priority. We hope that lawmakers see what we see: that this is a crisis and it doesn’t affect a few, it affects many.
“It’s unacceptable to pit students against students in a fight over funding when we all know schools are underfunded by over $1 billion for just this year. We adamantly oppose any school funding plan that would make it even more difficult for districts to educate their students. We will not support any plan that offers empty promises because our children deserve better. Nor will we support any plan that attempts to bypass the legislative process because taxpayers deserve to have a say in how their schools are funded. We do not need a new school funding formula; we need to fully fund SFRA and provide immediate relief for districts in crisis as we start a new chapter in New Jersey with our public schools as the first priority.”