School year begins as new school funding formula put in place

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Many school districts started the new school year in New Jersey this week, as the new school funding formula takes effect.

The new formula means that many schools will receive more funding for supplies and teachers – but not every school saw an increase.

Park Avenue School in Freehold is currently under construction and counting down to the first day of school. The school was so overcrowded that the education commissioner approved $30 million for the expansion after local voters refused to approve more funding.

“The classrooms were separated by cardboard boxes. It was awful,” says state Sen. Vin Gopal.

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The Freehold Borough school superintendent says that he hopes the days of overcrowding and being underfunded are behind him. Thanks to the new formula, the district will receive more than $3 million in additional funds – and more than $10 million over the next six years.

“I think our challenge is the poverty in the town,” Superintendent Rocco Tomazic says. “We’re now over 80 percent free and reduced lunch. So students who are at risk need more.”

Tomazic says that this year will be the first in five years that students will have a library again. The old library was split apart for classroom space due to overcrowding. The district will also be adding 16 new teachers to the faculty.

Senate President Steve Sweeney was the major proponent of the school funding changes.

“It’s not urban against suburban. It’s ‘we’re all in this together’ and we fixed it together,” says Sweeney.

Many school districts received additional funding, such as Newark, Paterson and Elizabeth.

But districts like Jersey City, Glassboro and Lakewood are all facing budget cuts. Jersey City officials say that they will appeal the funding decision in court.

“Since 2008 they’ve had extra funding for children they haven’t had. They should have been downsizing and rightsizing the school district rather than giving eight percent contracts out,” Sweeney says.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the school funding bill this July.

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