In 2008, the New Jersey Department of Education devised a new
funding formula for NJ school districts, based on the expenditure it believed was needed to provide a thorough and efficient education for a typical student.
Districts were supposed to receive more money from the state if they had low-income, disabled, special needs students or students with limited-English-speaking ability. However, the state has failed year after year to meet its obligation to help such challenged students in Bloomfield.
Despite the fact that the number of district students qualifying for free or reduced lunch has increased 45% over the past 10 years, and more than 12% are eligible for special education, Bloomfield is now facing a state funding deficit of almost $26 million, making it very difficult to help these students meet the requirements of New Jersey’s core curriculum.
As it stands now, Bloomfield is one of the most underfunded districts in the state. According to the New Jersey Department of Education’s 2010 summary of vital statistics, Bloomfield ranks near the bottom in the state in almost every category of spending.
Of the 105 districts with more than 3,500 students--which spent from a low of $10,132 per student to a high of $18,882 in the 2009-10 school year—Bloomfield ranked second from the bottom, with a total cost per pupil of $10,702. Only three other districts in our size category reported spending less than $11,000 per student. (And only a handful of smaller districts could be found with such modest spending.)
Consequently, Bloomfield teachers’ beginning salaries are among the lowest in the state. Lower teacher salaries means many teachers do not stay for long, but move on to other districts where their lifetime earnings will be higher. It means that Bloomfield tax payers spend money and time to have new teachers trained and mentored only to have them move on to other districts, making us a "training ground" for new teachers.
Nearly half of our district buildings are over 100 years old but, to spare classroom cuts, the buildings continue to deteriorate without needed maintenance or repair.
The New Jersey chapter of Save Our Schools, a grassroots organization determined to protect public education, points to more than $3.6 billion in school funding cuts since 2010, including $715 million in Governor Christie’s proposed 2012-13 state budget, which will underfund the state’s own funding formula for the fourth year in a row.
“This not only shortchanges our children’s future, it also places an increased burden on local communities in the form of higher property taxes and fees,” says Julia Sass Rubin of Save our Schools New Jersey.
For more information on how state government is starving our
public education system—thus raising local taxes—please go to the New Jersey chapter of Save Our Schools at: www.saveourschoolsnj.org.
Meanwhile, as an individual Bloomfield Board of Education member, I urge you to help our district get its fair share of state funding by contacting:
State Senator Ronald Rice (973-371-5665)
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (973-450-0484)
Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (973-926-4320).
All three of these legislators have consistently championed the cause of public education. Let’s give them the encouragement they need to keep up the good fight!