After years of being flat funded, the city’s school district received $426 million — $20.28 million more or five-percent increase – in state education funding for 2018-19 school year on Thursday afternoon.
The increase is the second largest dollar amount given to any district in New Jersey. Newark received the largest increase of $37.5 million, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.
District officials had anticipated a 5-percent increase in state education funding in putting together their $550 million budget for the next school year. On Wednesday night, the district’s business administrator Richard Matthews stated the district has a $33 million shortfall. His budget scenario included a 5-percent state aid increase.
School board member Flavio Rivera viewed the increase as a welcome change from almost a decade of flat funding. He said governor Phil Murphy, who has repeatedly said he will have Paterson’s back, appears to have kept his word.
“He’s done something that hasn’t been done before,” said Rivera pointing to the underfunding since 2010.
School officials have to sit down to work out a revised budget. “We have to sit at the table again,” said Rivera.
“I want to thank Governor Murphy and the Department of Education for recognizing the considerable funding challenges we have here in our school district. Still, I am very concerned that due to being underfunded for so long, we continue to have a significant shortfall,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer. “We will be reviewing all budget options over the weekend so that we can report to the Board on Monday.”
Murphy has promised to fully fund the state’s 2008 school funding formula. He increased state school aid by $283.6 million. His administration increased aid for 94-percent of school districts. 546 school district received increase in funding.
“As an educator, I’m excited about this budget because it’s the first time in years that we’ve seen this level of emphasis on investing in education,” said acting education commissioner Lamont Repollet in a statement. “We’re going to focus our resources to advance the Governor’s education agenda, which means fully funding our schools and enhancing learning opportunities.”
Murphy during his budget speech this week proposed to modernize the funding formula. He urged legislators to work with his administration to reach the goal of “full, fair funding” by 2021-22 school year.
“Addressing the inequities in the school funding is critical for cities such as Paterson — with a highly diverse student population that requires its fair share of funding – to be able to provide a thorough and efficient education,” said assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter on Wednesday.
“Drastic cuts to school funding over the years has forced many school districts to layoff teachers and school administrators and cut critical school programs. Fixing and fully funding the school formula will be the key to repairing the damage done in our state’s most disparaged school districts due to chronic underfunding,” said assemblyman Benjie Wimberly.
The city’s school district received $405.72 million last year. Over the past years, the district has laid off hundreds of teachers and staff members.
There are 25 classrooms with over 30 students. Shafer warned school board member, earlier in the week, if the board failed to approve a $10 million loan, she will be forced to layoff 120 employees, which will mean 100 classrooms with over 30 students.
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Correction: A previous version of this report erroneously stated Paterson received the largest dollar increase. Newark received the largest increase.
Updated 3:15 p.m.