• Main Header April 2019
  • Executive View
  • It'll Just Take Money!     



    Country singer Alan Jackson has an interesting song in which the lyrics depict a song writer with a broken-down car in the mechanic’s garage. The mechanic makes up mythical mechanical problems (e.g., spark plug wires are a little too long) and tells him that he can bring the repair in for $800. The mechanic then tells the song writer that he also writes songs and plays his best tune. The song writer, cognizant of the mechanic’s scam, tells him he can fix the song’s incredible problems (e.g., your adverbs are backed up into your chorus) for just $900! The song’s chorus is the point of this short storyBut don't be downhearted, I can fix it for you, sonny. It won't take too long, it'll just take money.”


    Listening to the song, I think of politicians mouthing some form of these words as debate rages over the current funding law. Think of the debate about the funding proposals proffered by legislators a few years ago leading up to the adoption of S2, our current funding law. It reminds me of a “Guess that Tune” parody among contestants: I can fix that problem in 7 years; I can fix that problem in 5 years. 


    Currently, there is a great deal of conversation, consternation and even, accusation, as the impact of the S2 funding legislation is realized. Educational leaders throughout New Jersey have either found themselves finally receiving resources for their districts denied over the last decade; while others are losing those resources as student enrollment declined during that same period. 


    As a state, we are at risk of the changes creating a deep divide among our leaders.  NJASA represents the leaders of all the school districts and as I speak with many of them, I too see the opinion divide growing and being destructive.  I have repeatedly said that our association and its leadership must be the “glue” that holds our membership together as we work toward equitable funding for every student.


    During the week of April 15th, the major education leadership groups agreed upon a funding position conveyed to Governor Murphy and state legislators.  The correspondence urges maintaining the funding gains for “underfunded” districts while providing additional funding for the many districts losing current funding with a resultant negative effect on student learning. 


    Republican legislators have recently announced their own funding program to assist school districts. That proposal titled, "Every Child Counts," is a package of 14 bills, one of which includes having the state assume the full cost of extraordinary special education in the state, estimated at $193 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget. Another proposed change to special education funding would be to make it 100 percent categorical aid. There appears to be legislative support for some of these proposals, even across party lines. In addition, Democratic leaders agree about increasing aid for pre-school education programs


    There seems to be a theme here: “But don't be downhearted, I can fix it for you, sonny. It won't take too long, it'll just take money.”  Let’s see what the source of the money to address funding disparities and their impact might be and how quickly it will come!  NJASA will continue to work with other educational groups to support formula changes that benefit all districts and achieving full formula funding.