Kingsway's Fair Funding Campaign

As one of the State’s fastest growing school district’s, Kingsway serves the two of the fastest growing municipalities in the state – The Townships of Woolwich and East Greenwich. As a result, the District’s population growth has led to substantial enrollment increases over the last fifteen years. 

Unfortunately, state aid has failed to keep pace. In 2001, state support for the Kingsway Regional School District equaled $5,280 per student. In the current 2016-2017 school budget, state aid per pupil was reduced to $3,770. This represents a 29% reduction over a period of 15 years.

We hold firm to the belief that available state funding should be equally distributed across New Jersey, even in a difficult economy. Is it fair to shortchange one child because of his mailing address? Why would a district just several miles away from Kingsway’s front door be afforded more funding per pupil? Without immediate state relief, Kingsway Regional, and other similar districts experiencing significant enrollment growth, will edge even closer to the proverbial tipping point whereby the consequences will be irrevocable.  

Dear Governor Christie and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto:


As one of the State’s fastest growing school districts, Kingsway serves two of the fastest growing municipalities in the state – the Townships of Woolwich and East Greenwich. As a result, the District’s population growth has led to substantial enrollment increases over the last fifteen years.


This rapid growth has placed a great strain on our school system. Since 2001, the District’s resident enrollment has increased by more than 1,405 students, or 133%, placing extraordinary demands on our facilities, programs, and staff.


Unfortunately, state aid has failed to keep pace. In 2001, state support for the Kingsway Regional School District equaled $5,280 per student. In the current 2016-2017 school budget, state aid per pupil was reduced to $3,770. This represents a 29% reduction over a period of 15 years.


Throughout this same period our school system continued to implement cost saving measures in an effort to reduce the tax burden while maintaining quality education programs. In the 2016 Taxpayers’ Guide to Education Spending, the Kingsway Regional School District was ranked first out of forty-six (7-12) school districts throughout the State as the lowest spending in regard to budgetary per pupil costs ($10,537.) For FY 2017, Kingsway Regional’s budgetary cost per pupil was reduced to $10,362 and is lower than the $15,296 state average, and markedly lower than other districts such as Monmouth County’s Henry Hudson Regional, which spends nearly $22,000 per pupil.


Despite these accomplishments, the burden to fund our school district has consistently been shifted to our local taxpayers. Throughout the same fifteen-year period where state aid per pupil has decreased, local property taxes per pupil have increased by more than 142%, from $3,549 in 2001 to $8,600 in 2016. This shift of responsibility has made it increasingly difficult to maintain our quality school system.


In 2008 we believed we found the solution to our problems with the passage of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). The new funding formula promised to remediate the many inequities in school funding. SFRA was designed to fund our schools based on the cost of educating each student to meet core standards, provided additional remedy for students with disabilities, and additional funding for districts experiencing the growth we have experienced.


As a result, Kingsway Regional received a 20 percent increase in state aid and subsequently adopted a school budget that called for the smallest tax increase in a decade in 2008. Kingsway Regional was also assured by then Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy that it would be afforded 20 percent increases per year for the next five years until we were made whole. This recognition and increase in state aid would have put Kingsway Regional on par with other communities and eased the unfair tax burden on our local residents who make up the difference in funding our public schools.


By now it is well documented that the schools in the Borough of Swedesboro and the Townships of Woolwich, East Greenwich and South Harrison are historically underfunded. With respect to fairness, the continued failure by the State of NJ to recognize our growth is irresponsible. To illustrate this point, I can show that the Washington Township School District, Gloucester County, a short drive from our front door, receives 141% of full, uncapped SFRA funding. In contrast, Kingsway Regional receives just 47%. In fact, eight school districts in Gloucester County alone receive more than 100% of full, uncapped SFRA funding, including the Wenonah Elementary School District, which receives 286% funding, while Kingsway Regional and two of our elementary regional sending school districts in Swedesboro-Woolwich and East Greenwich receive 64% and 49% respectively. 


Enclosed I have included the proportional allotment of SFRA funding for the 28 school districts in Gloucester County, a resource generated by the Education Law Center. I along with the names attached to this petition, ask you to address the inequity of funding throughout our County. I am fully aware that your position is that the State of New Jersey cannot fully fund the SFRA formula. That being said, we ask that you underfund the SFRA formula fairly, ensuring that every child in every school district is funded. By way of example, if the statewide average for SFRA funding is at 85.3%, why not fund every school district at that rate. This solution would not require additional money added to the State Budget, but would allow you to reapportion current levels of funding, ensuring that every child is funded in accordance with the formula, and eliminate the “Haves” from the “Have Nots.”


In closing, we hold firm to the belief that available state funding should be equally distributed across New Jersey, even in a difficult economy. Is it fair to shortchange one child because of his mailing address? Why would a district just several miles away from Kingsway’s front door be afforded more funding per pupil? Without immediate state relief, Kingsway Regional, and other similar districts experiencing significant enrollment growth, will edge even closer to the proverbial tipping point whereby the consequences will be irrevocable. 


Thank you in advance for your continued support. If you should have any questions regarding our plight, please do not hesitate to contact me at your earliest convenience as we would welcome an opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss. The signatories of this petition represent the hard working men and women who reside within Kingsway’s 57-square mile border and request that you resolve this funding imbalance in time for the 2017-18 budget year.


 


Very truly yours,


Dr. James J. Lavender


Superintendent of Schools

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