Today, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a fiscal year 2024 budget that includes record funding for schools, a full pension payment, preschool expansion, support for student mental health and initial steps toward addressing the educator shortage crisis in New Jersey’s public schools. The proposed school funding increase of $830 million brings the total increase under Gov. Murphy to more than 30% across six budgets. The additional $110 million for preschool brings the state’s total commitment to over $1 billion. The full pension payment is the third consecutive one, something no other governor has done in over three decades.
NJEA’s officers, President Sean M. Spiller, Vice President Steve Beatty and Secretary-Treasurer Petal Robertson, issued this statement:
“Gov. Murphy has once again demonstrated his commitment to New Jersey’s students, families and public schools with a budget that prioritizes their needs by investing in our state’s future. By fully meeting the state’s annual pension obligation, this budget also shows respect for the educators who have made our schools the best in the nation.
“We know that every dollar invested in education is repaid many times over in increased future productivity and decreased future costs. New Jersey students are better off today and New Jersey will be stronger for years to come because of the investments Gov. Murphy and the Legislature have made in the last five budgets and the increased investment contained in this budget.
“The investment in student mental health is especially important. Students are still recovering from the trauma of three disrupted school years. The effect of that disruption went beyond academic challenges to the social-emotional well-being of everyone in our public schools. Recognizing that, and taking steps to address it, is a critical part of our ongoing COVID recovery efforts.
“This budget also takes some small preliminary steps toward addressing New Jersey’s ongoing educator shortage crisis, with stipends for student teachers and the waiving of teacher certification fees. Those two steps will make teaching more accessible to a wider range of New Jersey students, helping to both deepen and broaden the pool of potential candidates.
“However, much more work remains to be done in this budget cycle to address New Jersey’s devastating educator shortage. This budget must include significant additional funding for both retention programs and recruitment for both educators and educational support professionals. For example, we need to see investment in collaboration between our secondary schools, community colleges and educator preparation programs to build a diverse and representative pipeline from community colleges to our classrooms. We need investment in school culture and climate programs that work to reduce paperwork and provide educators with the time they need to prepare for their students.
“Beyond the budget, we also need to implement meaningful structural changes to Ch. 9, the state’s teacher certification and induction regulations, which could immediately increase the educator pipeline. We urge Gov. Murphy to revisit the recommendations made by the Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages in New Jersey and implement the solutions proposed by the experts and practitioners who made up that group. Without those reforms, additional school funding will not be enough to protect our students. “We look forward to working with the Murphy administration and the Legislature in the coming months to implement these and many more of the substantive recommendations of the educator shortage task force. We recognize that many, many improvements are needed to make public education a viable, sustainable career in the future, and we will continue to advocate for those improvements so that our students continue to have the teachers and other essential staff they need to learn, to thrive and to keep our schools the best in the nation.”