After the school board rebuked the state for abandoning the court sanctioned school funding formula in a budget resolution, the state appointed district superintendent last week refused to include the denouncement clauses in his transmission of the budget to the department of education.
“After careful consideration of the board’s amendments, I do not believe it is in the best interest of the school district to certify a resolution with these amendments,” read a letter from Donnie Evans, district superintendent, to David Hespe, commissioner of education.
The letter written on April 1st, 2014 cites a statute that grants the superintendent authority to override the board’s decisions.
Contained within the resolution were harsh words targeted towards the state for abandoning the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) formula. With the current level of funding the state has been providing the district, read the resolution, a “thorough and efficient education” is an impossibility for district students.
The Education Law Center, an equal funding advocate for schools, has filed a complaint in the judiciary asking the court to bring the New Jersey Department of Education back in line after it completely abandoned the formula this year.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Jonathan Hodges, school board member, who penned most of the amendments. In one amendment the board used threatening language stating that, had the district not been under state control a lawsuit would be eminent.
“The Paterson Board of Education agree to submit this budget only under the unusual duress peculiar to state take over districts which preclude us from taking the more appropriate action of legally pursuing the additional funding that we are entitled to under the law,” read the amendment.
“We wanted him to include our amendments in the certified copy of the budget, but he didn’t do that,” said Corey Teague, school board member, who has been testifying in Trenton urging the legislature to follow the formula. “He put it in a separate thing which really doesn’t mean anything,” said Teague.
“The board communicated specific key messages related to the budget resolution,” said Terry Corallo, the district’s spokesperson, “Dr. Evans felt it was fair to attach what they voted on.”
The superintendent attached the protest resolution with the certified budget without affixing his signature.
Evans, during last Monday’s budget vote said he needed more time to review the amendments before sending them to the state. He said, “It will go with or without my signature is what it comes down to and that’s the decision I’m going to make.”
The district’s lawyer, Lisa Pollak said the amended resolution may not be acceptable to the state. She said, “You’ve now created a new resolution that may not be acceptable to the state.” The letter cites Pollak’s legal opinion.
Evans’ letter, despite lacking the strong feelings the board wanted to express, included: “Prior to the vote, the board expressed concern over the current funding by the state.” A possible diplomatic way of saying the board was unhappy.
“I don’t think he cares about what we really think,” said Teague at Evans’ last minute countermand. Hodges said he was surprised at the development because he figured the board had already addressed the issue during the budget hearing.
“We work for the children of Paterson, and while he may intend on minimizing the controversy, we won’t be getting any improvement,” said Hodges.
Hodges said the board may have to send a letter to the state with its protest.
Updated: 9:50 a.m. Monday, April 7th, 2014.