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‘Efforts to Discuss the Severe and Negative Impact … Have Fallen on Deaf Ears’

Toms River Regional Schools has joined an alliance of school districts, municipalities and tax payers to actively oppose the devastating financial impact caused by the reduction of state aid resulting from P.L. 2018, Chapter 67, otherwise known as S2.

This alliance-- a coalition of eight school districts which have the support of their respective town councils through adopted resolutions, and which is represented by the Weiner Law Group, LLP-- issued a press release on the lawsuit last week. It reads as follows:

The SFRA (School Funding Reform Act) is a weighted school-funding formula, the goal of which was to create a fair, equitable, and predictable formula to fund New Jersey’s school districts. The law ... has done no such thing. Despite rigorous advocacy efforts, we have been forced to file a legal action before the Commissioner of Education because our efforts to discuss the severe and negative impact that the state aid reduction will have on students, educational programming (planning for the future), and the taxpayers in our districts have fallen on deaf ears.

Although we would have preferred to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the DOE to address a path forward to check the dire educational impairments caused by the reduction in state aid, the DOE seemingly is not interested in confronting the calamitous impact of S2. Instead of State Aid being determined in accord with the SFRA and its related and predicate constitutional mandates, it is instead being determined arbitrarily and without transparency, and the levels of funding provided to Petitioning School Districts by the DOE renders them unable to provide their students with a thorough and efficient education as required by the State Constitution and Supreme Court mandate. We do not object to the funding of any school district which is satisfied with its State aid, nor do we seek in any manner whatsoever to have State aid reduced to any non-petitioning district.

Because of the underfunding, each of the Petitioning Districts is unable (or at immediate risk of being unable) to provide needed programs without being forced to place an additional and more excessive burden on their tax payers, and, in some instances, unable to do so altogether because of the State-imposed cap on property tax increases. Among the consequences will be staffing reductions, the failure to hire additional staff (despite recognized student needs), the elimination or reduction of programs and curriculum offerings, the discontinuance of both enrichment and extra-curricular activities, to name but a few of the negative impacts being considered.

Simply put, S2 will have dire and unintended consequences for the students in many districts whose state aid will be reduced over the next six (6) years. If fully enacted, the reduction in state aid will result in a catastrophic effect on educational programming for students. It is our fervent hope to avoid such a disastrous outcome. Of course, we remain willing and eager to mutually find an acceptable solution.

Toms River Regional Schools’ own efforts to confront the funding crisis head-on have been well-documented, and the district has emerged as a leader in the fight. As recently as Feb. 1, and on behalf of the Save Our Students advocacy group-- another coalition opposed to the funding formula of which the district is an active member-- TRRS again shared a public statement issued by SOS back in December with more than 250 media members, legislators, and state education leaders.

Updates on the S2 lawsuit and its progress will be issued regularly; however, the Weiner Law Group has asked that all questions regarding the lawsuit be referred to Mark Tabakin, Esq.

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