S2 - Advocating for our Students
What is happening?
The State of New Jersey has adopted a plan to reduce the district’s state funding by 50% over several years. In essence, Senate Bill 2 (S2) reflects the state’s belief that the taxpayers of the Freehold Regional High School District are undertaxed and that the state will no longer subsidize communities who are not paying their “Local Fair Share” – an arbitrary calculation that we continue to challenge. Even if tax levy increases were maximized under the state imposed cap, S2 will generate annual budget deficits that will require meaningful cuts to the programs and services that have distinguished this district in the State of New Jersey.
The impact of a revenue loss of this magnitude cannot be overstated. Over the next several years, programs and services in the areas of student supports, academic offerings, athletic and extracurricular opportunities, busing, as well as progress towards targeted refinements outlined in our strategic plan, will all be markedly diminished.
Why is there a funding crisis?
New Jersey’s current school funding formula dates back to 2008. It considers property wealth and enrollment, plus other calculations the New Jersey Department of Education has not fully revealed. In 2018, S2 reinterpreted the formula to redistribute funds. About two-thirds of districts benefited, at the expense of the rest.
Where we are today...
The Freehold Regional will lose approximately $24 million in state funding under the plan put forth by state legislative leaders. The district will go from receiving approximately $51 million in state aid down to $27 million after the implementation period is complete.
Even with raising taxes, we will never be able to close that gap. Our class sizes are already at 30 students for core courses. That number will have to rise to accommodate cuts. Critical infrastructure work will be delayed, our extracurricular structure will change, and transportation for students will also be affected.
Karen Wall, a reporter for the local Patch, recently published an article about the secretive math surrounding the state’s school funding formula. Please take a moment to read the article, “Toms River, Brick Seek ‘Secret’ Math Equation in School Aid Fight” which highlights administrators’ frustrations over the lack of transparency regarding the funding cuts we face under S2. While the focus of the piece is two schools in Ocean County, their concerns mirror ours in the Freehold Regional.
To provide a bit of context, according to the state’s multipliers, if you owned a house valued at $400,000 and earned $100,000 in 2009 you had the ability to pay $4,127 in FRHSD taxes. Keeping that property value and income flat, in 2020 the state’s formula says you’re able to pay $5,396 in FRHSD taxes. How is it possible that the amount of taxes you’re able to pay increased while your salary and home value didn’t? That’s what we and other districts affected by S2 want to know. The numbers just do not add up.
What are we doing to advocate for our students?
The Freehold Regional High District has joined an alliance of school districts, municipalities and tax payers to actively oppose the devastating financial impact caused by the reduction of state aid resulting from S2.
One avenue we have pursued is joining a lawsuit with several school districts who are also facing devastating cuts as a result of this legislation. If fully enacted, the reduction in state aid will result in a catastrophic effect on educational programming for students. It is our fervent hope to avoid such a disastrous outcome. We are represented in this action by the Weiner Law Group, LLP.
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."