December 19, 2018
Governor Phil Murphy
State House, Trenton, New Jersey
Re: Increase in Private School Funding
Dear Governor Murphy:
Education Law Center (ELC) writes to urge a veto of Assembly Bill 4597, passed by the Legislature on December 17, 2018. This bill doubles the current security appropriation to private schools to $22.6 million from $11.3 million.
While all schools must ensure a safe learning environment for students, A4597 was rushed through the Legislature without any data, research or evidence to justify a significant increase in the allocation of public funds to private schools.
In fact, data from the Department of Education (DOE) shows that, in some communities, portions of the current entitlement for security expenses have gone unused. In FY17, the DOE reported at least $832,000 in unspent appropriations in the private school security category.
Even more troubling, the Legislature faces a significant shortfall in funding our public schools under the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). Further, under Senate Bill 2 enacted last June, almost 200 public school districts will experience state aid cuts in 2019-20 and beyond. In many districts, the cuts will trigger the loss of essential education resources.
At the same time, the total appropriation to private schools in FY18 exceeded $100 million, exclusive of substantial state funding for private school transportation.
Put simply, there is no basis for the Legislature to divert even more public funds to private schools when there is no documented need for such funding, and, even worse, when the State is unable to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fund a thorough and efficient education for all public school students.
For these reasons, ELC strongly urges you to veto A4597. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
David G. Sciarra, Esq.
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications