The President’s Message
The Edison Board of Education would like to draw your attention to a critical issue facing our town – funding for our schools. Nearly 16,000 students attend our schools every day, making Edison the fourth largest school district in the state. However, in terms of funding, Edison is among districts receiving the lowest fraction of our fair share – 37.8% of our SFRA entitlement. According to the SFRA formula, Edison should have received $37,000,000 for the 2016-17 School Year. The District was given $14,000,000 in state aid, thereby depriving our students and taxpayers of $23,000,000.
The Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness, consisting of eight Senators from the New Jersey State Legislature, held a hearing at Middlesex County College on Thursday, February 2nd. The President of the Senate, Stephen Sweeney, chaired the discussion, and wants very much to implement a system of fairness for state aid with his Formula4Success. Many Senators, Assemblypersons, and local officials spoke at the hearing, and our local representatives from the 18th legislative district also testified: Senator, Patrick Diegnan and Assemblypersons, Robert Karabinchak and Nancy Pinkin.
The Edison Board of Education’s Equitable State Aid Committee, chaired by Board Member, Theresa Ward, along with Board Members Shivi Prasad-Madhukar, Richard Brescher and myself, Dr. Frank Heelan, compiled the following list, emphasizing the key data points, which I presented to the Senate Select Committee:
· Funding for districts must increase in accordance with the previous year’s October 15th enrollment. The enrollment in many school districts has decreased since 2008; yet the state funding continued to increase for those districts. Edison has had a 12.4% increase in enrollment since 2008: in September 2016, over 500 additional students registered in our schools; however, state aid per student in Edison has continued to decline since 2008.
· Three districts had a higher enrollment than Edison in 2016-17, and received on average fifteen (15) times the state aid per student than Edison. Newark received $14,547 actual aid per student; Jersey City was awarded $13,570 aid per student; and Paterson was given $14,426. As the fourth largest district in New Jersey, Edison got $951 actual aid per student, the lowest of the seventeen districts with 10,000+ enrollment.
· Edison’s schools are severely overcrowded. NJDOE uses the Facilities Efficiency Standard (FES) to analyze school building capacity. The FES capacity at John P. Stevens High School was 1,237; the total enrollment, however, stood at 2,340 during 2016. Edison High School’s FES capacity is 956, but the enrollment during 2016 reached 1,947. Edison taxpayers cannot afford another high school without additional state aid.
· Low income is not restricted to a limited number of districts, but is spread throughout the state. Most elementary schools in Edison are Title 1 schools with 20-40% free lunch, and one school has over 40% free lunch.
· 56% of property taxes in Edison is earmarked for the schools; in favored districts, less than 25% of property taxes is allocated to the schools.
· Adjustment aid or “hold harmless” aid, ensuring that no district would receive less state aid than the amount previously received, is intrinsically inequitable. To be fair, adjustment aid must be abolished.
We hope that the Governor and the Legislature will roll back the “adjustment aid”, take into account our 12.4% increased enrollment since 2008, and incorporate these changes into the budget announcements in early March.
Frank Heelan, Ed.D.
President, Edison Board of Education