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ELC REPORT: INADEQUATE FUNDING SHRINKS STAFF AND REDUCES OPPORTUNITIES FOR NJ STUDENTS

July 9, 2014

A new report released today by Education Law Center documents an alarming decline in school staff between 2009 and 2012, triggered by the State’s failure to provide billions in required funding increases.

Shortchanging New Jersey Students: How Inadequate Funding Has Led to Reduced Staff and Growing Disparities in the State’s Public Schools analyzes school staffing data compiled by the NJ Department of Education. The report finds that school districts across the state saw workforce reductions that resulted in higher student-to-staff ratios. This, in turn, means larger class sizes, greater workloads for teachers, and a reduction in course offerings for students.

The report was prepared for ELC by Mark Weber, a public school teacher and Ph.D. student at Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Graduate School of Education, with assistance from ELC Research Director Danielle Farrie. The report shows that all levels of school staff have seen declining numbers, including administrators, nurses, counselors, and teachers responsible for core academic, STEM, world language, art, music, and health and physical education classes.

Staff reductions have occurred in all types of school districts regardless of socio-economic level. But the analysis also found a direct correlation between the level of underfunding of a school district and the degree to which that district has experienced reductions.

The report notes that the State’s funding formula (the School Funding Reform Act, or SFRA) was enacted to close the gap between adequately and inadequately funded districts. But consistent underfunding of the formula has instead exacerbated those gaps.

A key finding in the report is that the most inadequately funded districts, which are more likely to serve higher percentages of low-income (at-risk) students, have staffing levels far below their adequately funded peers, and the staffing gap was even larger in 2012 than it was in 2009.

“This report demonstrates that the underfunding of our schools isn’t about dollars,” said Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director. “It’s about how the loss of those dollars results in cuts to the staff, programs and services needed by our students, especially the growing numbers of at-risk students and English language learners.”

“We hope this report serves as a wake-up call to lawmakers, parents and concerned citizens across the state,” said Sharon Krengel, ELC Policy and Outreach Director. “Five years of funding cuts and no increases are taking their toll on the quality of education in our classrooms and the ability of our state to ensure all students graduate ready for the workforce and college.”

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24