S2 - Advocating for our Students

What happened?

In 2018, the State of New Jersey passed a law referred to as S2, which restructured the way the state distributes funds to school districts. Essentially S2 recalculates a community’s ability to pay, and as a result, redistributes state aid toward communities deemed to have been “overpaying” taxes and away from communities deemed to have been “underpaying.” The Freehold Regional High School District (FRHSD) is one that was hit particularly hard by this recalculation.  To put it another way, the state’s position is not that we spend too much on our schools, it’s that the local residents are not paying what the state refers to as their “local fair share” of property taxes.  The state thinks that as a community we should be paying more in school taxes. Even with tax levy increases maximized under the state-imposed cap, S2 generates budget deficits that will require meaningful cuts to the programs and services that have distinguished this district.

The impact of a revenue loss of this magnitude cannot be overstated. 

Where we are today...

In short, S2 created a 7-year phasing out of state aid to our school district. The seven years have been compounding - meaning the cuts each year are on top of all the cuts from prior years. We are currently operating in year five of the cuts.  This year we were cut about $3.5 million. Last year we were cut about $6.7 million.  The year before we were cut about $5.8 million.  The year before that we were cut about $3.8 million.  And the year before that the cut was about $1.3 million.  In March 2023 we were informed that the 2023-2024 school year will face a $6.7 million cut.  While state legislators approved the deferral of a portion of that $6.7 million reduction being moved to the next budget cycle, the district has still lost over $25 million since S2's inception.  We anticipate that when the final year is added in, the Freehold Regional will have lost approximately $30 million in state aid. 

The state crafts an adequacy figure, the amount of money they think it should cost to educate students based on the number of students in the district. According to the state’s own formula that determines the “adequate” amount of funding for each district to educate its students, we are currently operating at $11.4 million under that adequacy number.  With the March 2023 announcement of a $6.7 million reduction, our new budget will be more than $20 million under adequacy. Yet, our state aid continues to be slashed.  

As a point of reference, when compared to similar high school only districts, FRHSD spends approximately $4,900 per student less than the state average. Out of 31 similarly constructed districts in New Jersey, FRHSD ranks 2nd lowest in per pupil costs.  Our administrative costs are 24.8% lower than those comparable districts.  FRHSD is a model of regionalization – robust opportunity, economy of scale, and efficiency, with outstanding outcomes for our students.  In short, we represent everything the state should be encouraging other districts to emulate.

There is no way to make up millions of dollars in our budget that isn’t painful. We have been and will be forced to make drastic cuts to all aspects of our operation and these cuts will be noticeable, they will be undesirable, and they will compromise the quality of the experience for current and future students. Essentially, everything is on the table.

What are we doing to advocate for our students?

The Freehold Regional High District joined an alliance of school districts, municipalities, and taxpayers to actively oppose the devastating financial impact caused by the reduction of state aid resulting from S2. 

One avenue we pursued was joining a lawsuit with several school districts also facing devastating cuts as a result of this legislation. 

In addition to the legal action, we have joined the Support Our Students Advocacy Group - a statewide coalition currently representing more than 90 school districts. The mission statement of Support Our Students is as follows: 

"The Support Our Students (SOS) coalition of school districts throughout the state being negatively impacted by the reduction in state adjustment aid shall advocate with our legislators, and convey our message to the public to ensure that all students continue to receive the quality education that they deserve and are entitled to in accordance with the state’s mandate for a thorough and efficient education.

Our effort shall be sustained and inclusive of all stakeholders focusing on outcomes that result in educational services and programming being maintained for our school communities while seeking fiscally responsible solutions."

What can you do?

Advocate for our students by contacting your legislators and explain how these cuts will impact your children. Click on your town to see a list of your state legislators. 

Colts Neck  Englishtown  Farmingdale  Freehold Borough  Freehold Township  Howell  Manalapan  Marlboro