NEWTON, NJ (Sussex County) – With many New Jersey public schools not fully reopened and many students and teachers still operating on remote schedules, members of Sussex County’s Board of County Commissioners were outraged to learn of the recent hit that Sussex County public schools took in state aid, with only two of the 25 Sussex County public school districts – Franklin Borough and Newton – receiving an aid increase.
Hopatcong Borough Schools experienced the deepest cut of all, with Gov. Phil Murphy reducing that district’s state aid by more than 27%, though the state has imposed greater mandates on public school districts to retrofit school buildings, to accommodate the pandemic conditions.
According to published news reports, over the last three years since Murphy took office, Sussex County in particular has experienced a consistent drop in the state aid it has received. Murphy penalized Sussex County again in state aid distributions for its school districts between this past year and the coming year by an approximate $7.4 million overall difference, from $95.18 million down to $87.8 million, with approximately 13 school districts countywide slated for a minimal 10% cut in Murphy’s proposed budget.
“Even with the most bloated budget in state history, in a state where public education is one of our top assets, student achievement in Sussex County didn’t make it on the governor’s list of priorities,” said Deputy Director Anthony Fasano, who had previously served before his tenure on the Board of County Commissioners, as Board of Education President to the Hopatcong Borough Schools.
“How in the world can we maintain quality schools and enhance student opportunities with such dramatic funding cuts?” Fasano asked.
“Despite what the governor says, there is nothing ‘fair’ about cutting away millions in state funding from schools in Sussex County,” Fasano said. “It’s wrong for our students, wrong for our educators and wrong for our taxpayers. It’s a total disgrace.”
“In typical fashion, the Murphy Administration has again repeated the shameful pattern of ignoring the needs of rural school districts, said Director Dawn Fantasia, who is employed as a principal in one of New Jersey’s charter schools. “The governor continues to support the underlying problem – the flawed New Jersey school funding formula – which results in a child’s zip code determining the resources available to support their education, with Sussex County again taking a hit.”
“The massive state budget is packed with Murphy’s wish list, but again, our kids don’t make the cut,” Fantasia said. “It’s crystal clear where the governor’s priorities lie, and it isn’t Northwest New Jersey.”
“Having good schools and education is the base of our communities,” said Commissioner Chris Carney. “It is probably the biggest priority for a family when choosing a place to live. With the governor continuously cutting school state aid, he is making it close to impossible to run schools efficiently, causing the tax burden to be passed along to our residents. Apparently, Governor Murphy obviously doesn’t understand this or maybe just doesn’t care.”