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Gov Murphy Visits Monty Upper Middle School, Proposes Increased State Funding for NJ Public Schools

By Rikki N. Massand and Barbara A. Preston | Posted March 2, 2023 | Updated March 3, 2023

Governor Phil Murphy and Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan visited Montgomery Upper Middle School in Skillman today to highlight a plan to increase state funding for NJ public schools.

The governor's proposed FY2024 budget "would provide historic levels of state aid to NJ schools, with an increase of $1 billion over the prior year for a total of $20.5 billion in school funding." This amount includes pre-K funding, pension and benefits funding for school staff, and an increase in $832 million in total K-12 formula aid. District allocations of state aid are available on the Department of Education (DOE) School Finance webpage.

According to the DOE site, state aid to the Montgomery School District would increase by about 15 percent in Fiscal Year 2024. This would represent about an extra $1 million for Montgomery in state aid.

Gov Phil Murphy addresses a small group of legislators, local elected officials, staff, educators, and members of the press at Montgomery Upper Middle School on Thursday.

Mary E. McLoughlin, superintendent of the Montgomery Township School District, joined Gov. Murphy in Trenton on Tuesday February 28 for his budget introduction. Two days later (March 1), inside the UMS media center, she introduced the governor to an invitation-only audience.

“This was a tremendous honor for our district to be selected and a unique opportunity to showcase our exceptional schools," McLoughlin said. "The announcement provides ... necessary funding to support our district-wide programs and services."

“Gov Murphy’s proposed budget includes increases in aid to many areas of education that will greatly assist districts with furthering their academic and social-emotional goals for their students. We are grateful for the governor’s continued focus on making education a top priority and allocating the appropriate funding to support these important initiatives,” she said.

Mary E. McLoughlin, superintendent of the Montgomery Township School District.

The Montgomery School District received the following state funding: $8.3 million (actual) in 2020-21; $6.8 million (revised) in 2021-22; and a proposed $7.8 million for 2022-23 according to the Montgomery Township "User Friendly" School District Fiscal Year 2023 Budget.

A phone call to the superintendent asking for an explanation of those numbers was not returned.

Montgomery resident Richard Specht, a former school board member, offered some insight into the numbers. "From FY21 to FY24, the state aid steadily increased from $5,132,942 to $5,862,187 to $6,815,919, to $7,843,652," Specht said. He pointed to State Aid Summaries website as the source for his information.

The difference between the numbers on the Montgomery User Friendly FY2023 budget and the numbers on the NJ State Aid Summaries website has to do with something called "Extraordinary Aid, which in 2020-21 was $3.04 million," Specht says. "The number isn’t known until later, when the actual budget is finalized. That’s why the 2021-22 and 2022-23 numbers have conservative estimates of $800K and $900K."

"I think it’s important for the community to know that the [Montgomery school] district has been fortunate to get increased funding from the state each year," Specht said. Of course, Specht is speaking as a Montgomery resident who knows how to read a budget, not for the school board or for the school.

Residents Still Pay the Bulk of Public Education Costs

Montgomery and Rocky Hill residents continue to pay the bulk of the costs to educate their children. Local property taxes contributed the following amounts to the annual school district budget: $79.7 million in 2020-21; $81.3 million in 2021-22; and a proposed $85.2 million in 2022-23. (From the Montgomery Township "User Friendly" School District Fiscal Year 2023 Budget).

In Montgomery Township, the total budgetary comparative per pupil cost was $16,276 in 2019-20. That figure has increased to $19,393 per pupil in the 2022-23 proposed budget.

“My administration remains committed to providing students throughout our state with the world-class education they deserve,” Gov Murphy said. “This year’s budget proposal demonstrates our ongoing commitment to working towards fully funding our schools, expanding pre-K throughout the state, growing our educator workforce, and promoting the success of our students.” “Governor Murphy’s state budgets have substantially increased investment in New Jersey schools. The proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget continues that historic investment,” said Angelica Allen-McMillan, Phd, acting commissioner of education. “Governor Murphy’s spending plan demonstrates the importance of strong educational systems and a commitment to the vitality of our State investment. Moreover, the Fiscal Year 2024 budget focuses on crucial initiatives that our schools, staff, and students so desperately need, ranging from high-impact tutoring to the improvement in the culture and climate of the teaching profession.”

Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan, Gov Phil Murphy, and Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer, who is a resident of Montgomery Township, at the Upper Middle School.

Along with UMS Principal Cory Delgado, McLoughlin and staff proudly welcomed other officials including Allen-McMillan, State Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, Somerset County Commissioner Board Deputy Director Douglas Singleterry, County Commissioners Sara Sooy and Paul Drake, State Sen. Andrew Zwicker, State Assembly members Roy Freiman and Sadaf Jaffer, and Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan, among others.

Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer said to The Montgomey News: "I’m proud that Gov Murphy chose Montgomery to announce his proposed budget’s historic investments in pre-k, mental health resources for students, and teacher pipeline programs — in addition to state aid. This translates into school tax relief for local communities."

"Montgomery’s public schools are our pride and joy and I know that all the opportunities I’ve had to serve in government and as a professor at Princeton University are due to my excellent public school education," Jaffer said. "I look forward to working with my partners in the legislature to ensure that my young daughter and all children in our state have a world class education in order to build a better future for New Jersey."

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At the podium, Gov Murphy joked with Principal Delgado that whenever he visits a school, he makes sure to listen carefully to the principal’s orders. He then introduced 16th District Assembly member Roy Freiman, who represents several municipalities in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Mercer counties. Freiman spoke about data as well as the importance of public education in New Jersey. He visited Montgomery after a stop at Hillsborough’s Woodfern Elementary School, where he read to 1st grade children for the Read Across America week.

“We do not necessarily do that activity as somebody in a suit, an Assembly member, showing up in a classroom to read for inspiring children – we do that for those working in education," Freiman said. "We show up and demonstrate to them how much we respect what they do, and how important their lives are and how they impact the future. As legislators configuring a state budget, and we show New Jersey that we are putting more of our dollars and a higher priority around education, we are demonstrating to those who want to get into education, ‘We believe in you!’ I believe in our educators and what they do for our children and for our future. We are showing educators their role is important, we respect what they do and we want to help. Everybody who works in education reaches into their pockets all the time to provide for their children and they don’t ask for it back. They do it because they’re dedicated,” he explained.

Montgomery Mayor Keenan told The News, “I am thankful to Gov Murphy and our partners in the legislature for supporting increased investments in pre-K and other educational aid, including aid for mental health. Such investments fit very well with the values of our community.

Somerset County Commissioner Board Deputy Director Doug Singleterry thanked Gov. Murphy for his “consistent and ongoing support for Somerset County, and in particular his support for our schools.”

Singleterry noted, “The Murphy administration’s annual increases in state education funding combined with strategic awards of grants have helped our schools remain in the top tier while minimizing the impact on our property taxpayers.”

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Advanced Placement Expansion

In addition, the governor’s budget proposal includes $1 million for the expansion of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in New Jersey, as well as $500,000 for wraparound supports and additional class offerings for students in Dual Enrollment (DE) courses in New Jersey, which will allow our students to take more college-level courses in high school to better prepare them for higher education. The expansion of these courses will be targeted to help students from low-income communities by increasing their opportunities to gain college credit in high school – making a higher education more accessible to students who may not have previously felt college was within their reach. These targeted expansions are based on recommendations from the Wealth Disparity Task Force. Growing New Jersey’s Education Workforce

As part of Gov Murphy's administration’s ongoing efforts to address the shortage of educators in New Jersey – an issue currently seen around the nation – the Governor also proposes over $20 million in new investments and other supports to help ensure our state has the trained and dedicated workforce necessary to provide top-quality education to public school students. This includes $10 million in stipends to support student-teachers while they work and study, and $5 million to waive certification fees in an effort to help bring more qualified and diverse individuals into the education profession. An additional $2 million will go towards a Culture and Climate Innovation Grant opportunity to help districts support educator quality of life, while $1 million will go towards a public awareness campaign to help encourage interest in teaching and raise the profile of the education profession. $1 million in funding will aim to develop local partnerships to help train paraprofessionals and offer tuition assistance to those seeking to become teachers. Similarly, the budget proposal includes $800,000 for a teacher apprenticeship program and maintains funding for the Men of Color Hope Achievers program and the Minority Teacher Development program to help support a diverse educator workforce.

Additional Highlights Municipal aid and school aid funding combined represent more than 42 percent of the entire FY2024 budget proposal. This funding will not only help schools keep up with rising costs, but will ultimately help keep property taxes from significantly increasing.

  • $80 million for capital maintenance and emergent needs in traditional school districts and charter schools;

  • $250 million for Schools Development Authority projects, drawing from the $1.9 billion appropriated to Schools Development Authority (SDA) from the Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund last year;

  • $3 million to implement a community schools pilot program; and

  • A continuation of $420 million in funding to support Extraordinary Special Education aid that helps defray the cost of educating students in special education classes.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on March 3, 2023 to reflect why the Montgomery Township User Friendly School District FY 2023 Budget showed different state aid figures than the NJ State Aid Summaries website.


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