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South Brunswick Parents Rally for Increased School Aid

Group calls $1 state aid increase to South Brunswick schools a "bad joke."

A small group of township parents held a rally outside the South Brunswick Board of Education offices Thursday in protest of the $1 increase given to South Brunswick schools for the 2013-14 school year.

In his budget address earlier this month, Gov. Chris Christie said 378 school districts in New Jersey would get a funding increase for the 2014 fiscal year. State aid to to the South Brunswick School District went up by $1, with Middlesex County schools in total receiving a boost in aid of about $7.5 million for next year.

"For the last three years, my family and thousands of other families in South Brunswick have lived with the consequences of Gov. Christie's massive cuts to public education in 2010," said South Brunswick parent and Save Our Schools member Lisa Rodgers.

South Brunswick will see a total of $23,220,341 in aid for 2013-14 after the $1 bump, which is still short of the large aid cut from three years ago. In 2010, South Brunswick was hit with a reduction in aid of $6.3 million.

The district received a more substantial increase last year of about $1.7 million. In 2011-12, aid to district schools went up by about $1.26 million. Rodgers noted that South Brunswick is 8 percent, or about $13 million, short of the minimum amount required by the School Funding Reform Act.

"The truth is that Gov. Christie has underfunded New Jersey schools by $5 billion since first taking office," said South Brunswick parent Theresa Dempewolf. "Almost every district in the state has been shortchanged by the governor and there seems to be no plan to bring New Jersey back into compliance with the school funding formula that is law."

Also attending the rally was Rob Duffey, of Our Children/Our Schools, a network of education, children’s rights and civil rights advocates and groups throughout New Jersey. Duffey said the group has called upon the state to restore taxes on people making over $400,000 per year to 2009 levels, which he stated would net roughly $1 billion, and to close corporate loopholes to bring in as much as $300 million.

Duffey pointed out that over 40 of the districts statewide labeled as receiving a boost in aid are "One Dollar Districts" like South Brunswick. 

"It's so outrageous that they're calling this an increase in aid," Duffey said. "This is a story that's being told throughout the state. Residents are paying more in taxes and receiving less. Raising awareness is absolutely critical to inform our legislators that we have residents everywhere who really care about the quality of education we receive."

The massive cut in aid South Brunswick received in 2010, combined with a sharp decrease in the township's ratable base and an increase in tax appeals, combined to form a perfect storm situation in recent years. 

Last year,  up from about 180 appeals in 2011, when approximately 100 companies successfully sued the township for a tax reduction. Since 2007, the township has lost $600 million in ratables from successful tax appeals, while the ratio of assessed property value to market value dropped from about 80 percent to 47 percent in South Brunswick over the last decade.

Last year, South Brunswick's

The cuts in aid, along with the impact of the declining tax base, caused the district to make significant staffing cuts over the past several years. The district has eliminated 212.7 full time equivalent employees since 2005-06. Class size teacher-student ratios for grades K-1 rose to 1:23, for grades 2-5 increased to 1:25 and for grades 6-12 went up to 1:28.

"Class sizes have gone up, giving my children less opportunity for individualized instruction," Rodgers said. "Music and art programs for children have been scaled back. Physical education was shortened by 20 to 30 minutes and over 20 clubs for the kids were outright eliminated."

Of particular concern for parents was the enactment of a pay to participate policy in South Brunswick for sports, band and extracurricular activities. 

Advanced Placement courses at South Brunswick High School carry a $75 fee per class, in addition to the fees currently in place to take the individual AP tests. Extracurricular clubs also carry a $25 participation fee, while students on free or reduced lunch are exempt from the fees. The district placed a cap of $300 per family in participation fees.

District officials said last year that South Brunswick took in about $400,000 from pay to participate fees to help cover the $1.6 million cost of running the various programs.

"Like many families, we hit the $300 cap pretty quickly," Rodgers said. "Meanwhile, our cash strapped schools have often relied on families to make purchases they could not."

Duffey said that parents throughout the state need to raise awareness in order to bring about a meaningful increase in aid to bring funding levels up to the minimum amount required by the funding formula.

"The bottom line is that we're still not where we need to be based on the 2010 cuts," Rodgers added.

CC March 22, 2013 at 10:31 PM
See latest rankings from NJ monthly https://m.box.com/view_shared/7c300516930c32f71a8e
Tugwalla March 22, 2013 at 11:36 PM
See that SB is a C or B rated district... http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/new-jersey/district/south-brunswick-township-school-district/
Julia March 23, 2013 at 12:38 AM
Test results like the SAT reflect income. A child whose family makes $40,000 a year scores an average of 100 points higher on the SAT than a child whose family makes $20,000 a year. (See ny times article cited below), Some ethnic and racial groups have lower average incomes because of centuries of institutional discrimination. Test scores merely reflect those inequalities. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/sat-scores-and-family-income/
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Julia.....LOL LOL LOL....choke...gasp. There are no inequalities in standardized tests such as the SAT. The inequalities are in the mind of the racist NJEA and Union zealots. In the real world smarter harder working people deserve to be paid more.....in your world we must penalize the smart hard working children for the the lazy and dumber kids.
Julia March 23, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Of course. You - the great wise troll who is too afraid to post his hate under his real name - know better than those silly statisticians who use research and data to demonstrate the relationship between income and SAT results.
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Julia...don't be a Foolia!.What hate? I state facts and the reality of the SB school district and you launch personal attacks? It does not change reality!
Bianca March 23, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Perhaps I should write this out for you. THESE ARE JUST TEST SCORES! They do not show whether a person is dumb or smart. What you should realize is that comments like yours are what make kids feel dumb when they are not, and discourages them from doing things. I seriously don't believe you have seen and read the research.
Bianca March 23, 2013 at 02:14 AM
I have never heard something so truthfull!
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Bianca...here's a question for you... Say you had a serious medical problem and you had ONLY two options to save your life.... Doctor 1 - Perfect score on all her tests and graduates number 1 in the class and passed their Board Certification the first time, or Doctor 2- Scored a 60% on all her tests and failed their their Board Certification three times. Who would you choose to save your life?
Ruthie March 23, 2013 at 01:20 PM
It's just a matter of time before The Patch kicks him off again and he returns with yet another new handle.
Bianca March 23, 2013 at 02:03 PM
First off, there is more than just doing well on tests to make a good doctor. If Doctor 2 was caring, good at surgery, and would tell you and your family what the results of your surgery were and Doctor 1 would not, then I would choose Doctor 2. What is the point of getting through medical school perfectly if you won't make a good doctor?
Bianca March 23, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Julia is right! Anyway, education is such an important thing. It's what every kid deserves. Every kid deserves a good education. If millions of dollars went to anything, I would want it to go to our children.
Deca March 23, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Do not let the trolls take us off message. There is a law in New Jersey about how schools and how much schools are to be funded. Some do not like the law, so fight to change it. But we cannot, as a nation, or as a state, choose which laws to follow when it is convenient and which ones not to follow when we decide it is not to our liking. And we should not be insulted by being told we are getting an increase in state aid for education and then find out we are offered a $1.00.
Eyeballs March 23, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Again, so much money is wasted in education. Why do kids need more than the basic tools of learning like books, paper, writing implements? They don't. We spend more money on education than prior generations by far and have far less educated kids. We spend too much money and we need to refocus on what's importand and we should drastically cut what we spend. And as far as "All kids deserve an education" goes - they deserve the basics and nothing more. Most kids are spoiled out of their minds. Look at the cars they drive, the toys they have, etc. We have done them a great disservice by giving them too much. We should drastically cut spending on education and give them what they need, rather than the extravagances we now give them. Give thema good teacher, books, paper, a pen, a pencil and that's it. They should take busses to school, bring their own lunches and they should have a job.
Suraj Khasnavees March 23, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Hi all. I am a student at SBHS (junior), and so experience the effects of budget cuts on a practically daily basis. I believe that this enable me to give at least a slightly revealing account of the situation. I hope this helps all of you to see the real side of this. A comment above mentioned the change in the average number of students in a class in past years- this DIRECTLY INFLUENCES our ability to learn in class. Take a 17-student class for example. Each block is about 90 minutes long. In those 90 minutes, the teacher is expected to go through the agenda for the day and complete the lesson set for that day. He/she is also expected to check the homework from the previous class and answer questions students have about homework, the curriculum, etc. The difference between time required for one teacher to check/answer the needs of 17 students compared to 30 students should not have to be explained. Individualized learning facilitates the legitimate understanding (on part of the students) , and having less time per student negatively affects his/her learning. I know I've personally even refrained from asking questions due to lack of time, which should never be the case.
Suraj Khasnavees March 23, 2013 at 03:41 PM
@Tugawalia, please support your assertion that you need to go on datauniverse to find legitimate information; I tried to look for relevant information for South Brunswick and didn't find anything. @Tugwalia, in response to your point about standardized testing. To be completely honest I don't understand the point you're trying to make. You're saying that the reason our SAT average is higher than the real average is because Asian parents emphasize it and that if it weren't for them it would be lower- wouldn't this support the need to a more money from the state such as to facilitate higher SAT scores from students of other ethnic groups as well?
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Deborah...the point is why cant the SB School system be accountable and responsible for our taxes? The board could cut $1,000,000 without reducing any academic programs yes the choose not to do so. The silly protest led by the NJEA supporters and people form out of town is political theater and has nothing to do with SB schools.
Suraj Khasnavees March 23, 2013 at 03:41 PM
The reason behind my making this a separate paragraph is its importance. The SATs are NOT a measure of intelligence. I repeat, the SATs conducted by Collegeboard are NOT a measure of intelligence. The SATs measure how well you can memorize vocabulary and spit them out on a test (CR) and how well you can connect basically any two random entities in society (writing) and how well you can do 8th grade algebra and geometry (math). They do not declare the intellect of an individual. Thus, they do sometimes reflect the income of families. If a family has the financial resources to enroll a student in a SAT prep class and buy SAT prep books and hire tutors to prepare for the SAT, logic would follow that the aforementioned student will fare better on the SAT. It's a no-brainer that schools would need to invest in teaching students how to write these tests to allow those low-income students or those who need help to higher the district average.
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Bianca...so you would select a 3rd rate physician over a someone from the top of her class? Pleeasssse... Test score do matter. The current curriculum testing method is too subjective and many parents have complained about teachers playing favorites and not spending enough time with the kids who really need the help.
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Suraj....all you have to do is go to datauniverse.com look up south brunswicl school district and you will see there over over 80 secretaries and too many NON TEACHING positions. So the reason the class sizes are getting bigger is because there are too many people on the payroll that have nothing to do with education in the classroom. . Your logic is flawed...in addition a child your age should be questioning authority and anyone over 30, rather to blindly believe union members and government data as the truth. Throwing money into a school system doesn't improve the outcome...what does is good genetics and parental involvement.
Tugwalla March 23, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Suraj....You are confused. SAT score are a measure of your ability to learn and apply. As for your misguided nonsense that test scores don't mean anything....Why don't you tell your parents that you are happy with a C- average and getting a combined 575 on your SAT scores. I can imagine the look on their faces......Oh and just wait to see the great response you will get when applying to college. Be sure to include on your admissions forms "Hey I am really smart so do not look at my test scores or SAT they really don't matter." If you are really a kid...which I doubt. Ask your parents who are probably hard working and involved in your education...what was their middle and high school like growing up? I am sure they didn't have the luxuries of SB...and I bet the did pretty well for themselves.
Judy Walters March 23, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Suraj, thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm glad a student came on here to give us a different point of view.
raymond Weis March 23, 2013 at 06:51 PM
I think it is all a bad joke. No matter where the money comes from local, county, state or even federal government in the end it comes from our pockets. It would be great if we could put unlimited funding into our schools but in the long run all that is going to happen is every level of government is going to have debt comparable to what our federal debt is now and we'll be passing it on not to our grand children but to our great grand children, What we have to do is get this countries financial house in order before we can accomplish anything.
Ruthie March 25, 2013 at 12:37 AM
A very bright kid.
Ruthie March 25, 2013 at 12:39 AM
I wonder why Tugwalla assumes that Suraj's parents "didn't have the luxuries of SB."
Bianca March 25, 2013 at 02:12 PM
To tell you the truth, I'm a student and I know about education because my parents talk a lot about it at home, and I'm living it. Although, just pointing out, they do say from the mouths of babes. Does that perhaps mean the comments that Suraj and I post are almost always true?
7 out March 25, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Wow, that might have been true in 1890, but the economy is information and computer based. You don't need a car, people traveled with a horse and buggy, doesn't mean it is a logical way to travel today
Tugwalla March 28, 2013 at 11:10 AM
From that right wing NJEA bashing Star Ledger.... Last year, South Brunswick's average school tax bill came in at $5,413.39, which was above the state average of $4,120.16, according to the Star Ledger. SB school board motto...."Pay more, get less."
Suraj Khasnavees April 04, 2013 at 07:53 PM
@Tugwalia are you implying that non-teaching positions have no significance in the school building? I'd suggest that you try to get to know the purpose of each paraprofessional/secretary/etc. before criticizing it based on a number. Also, please link your DataUniverse information and also question how credible it is. So no, my logic is not flawed. Just because I agree with a certain side doesn't mean I don't question it. Also, you said "good genetics" improves the outcome. "Good" is a very relative term, meaning something is better than something else. If everything is labeled 'good' and nothing is 'bad', what is the definition of good? Also, you insinuate that a student's performance depends on factors out of the student's hands/control- is that the mentality you went through high school with?
Suraj Khasnavees April 04, 2013 at 07:57 PM
@Tugwalia sorry if this comes off as rude, but I believe my perspective of the SAT (as a student) is more revealing than yours (as an adult). Many of my friends who are incredibly smart and will go on to do great things (and yes, do amazingly in school as well!) study for hours but yet are unable to do well on it. Standardized tests, as I've said before, are not meant for everyone. They do not weed out the smartest ones- they show how well a student can MEMORIZE, NOT APPLY information. And you're wrong- I am a student. Don't believe me? Take a look at http://southbrunswick.patch.com/articles/south-brunswick-fbla-team-scores-big-at-state-conference (SB PATCH ARTICLE!) regarding state level competition results for FBLA, a club at SBHS. What makes you say they didn't? Individual attention as well as hard work does indeed yield positive results from time to time (which you may not believe) and not everything depends on "genetics".

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