July 22, 2018 | ° F

Proposed budget slashes millions from city schools

Gov. Chris Christie's proposed state budget took its toll on New Brunswick public schools with the district's loss of $8.3 million in state funding.

The New Brunswick school district's 2010-2011 budget pencils in $165.9 million, more than $10 million less then the current year's budget of $176.4 million.

"New Brunswick lost millions of dollars in hard state money, state aid dollars coming in, due to a one-year remedy of supplanting state commitment dollars with federal money," New Brunswick Superintendent Richard Kaplan said.

Christie's proposed state budget slashed $820 million in education funding with each of the nearly 600 districts seeing reductions of 5 percent of their current total budgets, according to NJ.com.

Christie's cuts come after former Gov. Jon S. Corzine used $1.89 billion in federal money to artificially replace state aid, including $17 million for New Brunswick schools, Kaplan said.

The Board of School Estimate, composed of Mayor Jim Cahill, two Board of Education members and two City Council members, on April 2 approved the budget, he said.

After looking at ways to cut down on supplies, materials and other efficiencies, the district made decisions regarding personnel, tentatively eliminating 65 positions including 21 teachers, Kaplan said.

"As this happens, we don't really know whether anyone might lose their jobs," he said. "In today's mail, two people decided to retire, and I had no clue they were going to retire."

The attrition rate adds another factor to the equation as teachers might retire, take other jobs or their contract might not be renewed, Kaplan said.

Seniority is accrued once tenure is received in the fourth year of teaching, and a teacher must have 25 years of service before retirement, he said.

"We know we have effective programs because they are working for our students, so we didn't want to lose those," Kaplan said. "We've made some great strides over the last few years, which some folks take for granted I suppose."

New Brunswick is the only Abbott district — districts that receive remedies to ensure students have public education in accordance with the N.J. constitution — in the state to pass Quality Single Accountability Continuum monitoring and to no longer be considered a "district in need of improvement" under federal No Child Left Behind requirements, he said.

A school receiving Title I funds that has not met state reading and math goals for AYP for at least two years is classified as "school in need of improvement," according to the Department of Education's website.

Four schools in the district qualify as "school in need of improvement," according to the School & District Accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress 2009-2010 report.

New Brunswick High School is in year seven, New Brunswick Middle is in year two, A. Chester Redshaw is in year four and Roosevelt Elementary is in year five.

"Some of the schools have one year or two years, but they've already been all the way to seven and back," Kaplan said.

Ten schools in the district missed AYP requirements, according to the reports.

"The reason why it happens is that this past year's testing, the [2008-2009] test, was once again ratcheted up by the state, which is a good thing," Kaplan said. "It's raising the bar and the scaled scores and that's why there's so many districts, not just the Abbots, but Edison and Summit, some of the better districts socioeconomically, are in that one or two-year range, too."

Kaplan is working with University deans to streamline a process for University involvement with New Brunswick schools to develop opportunities for students, grant New Brunswick teachers and staff access to professional development at the University and allow researchers to perform work concerning education and nutrition in the district.

"We want to make a match between our needs and Rutgers' needs that's total focus is to enhance student achievement," he said.

Associate Vice President for Academic and Public Partnerships in the Arts and Humanities Isabel Nazario said around 2,000 University students are involved in some type of program in New Brunswick schools — either by class assignment or volunteerism.

"That figure includes students who are there five hours a month and students who are there 10 hours a week," she said.

Previously, the district took the time and energy to communicate with 40 to 50 University programs, Nazario said.

Greg Flynn

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