Monday, May 15, 2017

500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes - The New York Times

500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes - The New York Times:

500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes

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FREEHOLD BOROUGH, N.J. — At an elementary school in Freehold, over 500 students share a vast, open space where bookshelves, whiteboards, storage cubbies and other pieces of furniture are the only boundaries between classrooms.
There are no walls because the building was originally designed in the 1970s to be a smaller Montessori school, Rocco Tomazic, the superintendent of the Freehold Borough School District, explained during a recent tour. But now it is noisy and crowded, and the district does not have the money to move students into traditional closed classrooms — the kind with walls and fewer distractions.
The issue for Freehold Borough — and about two-thirds of New Jersey’s 586 school districts — is the state’s nine-year-old formula for paying for public schools. Adopted by the State Legislature in 2008, it calculates how much each district needs to ensure that students receive a “thorough and efficient” education, regardless of income, as New Jersey law requires.
The formula directs extra dollars to districts with children who are learning English, students with disabilities and those living in poverty. But hundreds of towns, including Freehold Borough, where 75 percent of the schoolchildren are Latino, have not gotten their full share of funding under the formula since 2010. This year, for instance, the district was due $23 million, Mr. Tomazic said. It got $9 million.
“State aid has been flat-funded since at least 2010, with no adjustments for enrollment, for our at-risk students, for our special-needs students, for our English-language-learner students,” said Joe Howe, the district’s business administrator.
When the state falls short, the burden falls on local governments. In Freehold, that has meant overcrowded classes, a library converted into classrooms for English learners, a small gymnasium that doubles as a school cafeteria and an elementary school class with 28 students — well over the recommended 21.
The Freehold Borough School District is the 33rd-poorest district in New Jersey; 78 percent of its students are eligible for subsidized meals. Low-income communities cannot turn to property tax payers to cover what the 500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes - The New York Times:

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