Brick school officials and supporters from the community will board buses and head to Trenton on Tuesday as part of a planned march on the capital to call on legislators to restore millions in funding that Superintendent Gerard Dalton has said could cost jobs, end programs for students and increase class sizes.
Brick is facing a $23 million funding cut over the next seven years, after which the annual budget will remain cut by $23 million permanently. For the first time, Brick school officials produced numbers that measure the impact of the loss of funding: 290 jobs lost, the potential to be forced to eliminate all non-mandated student programs (including sports and extracurriculars) and 30 or more students piled into each classroom.
The realistic impact of the cuts won’t represent such extremes, but will likely come in various forms that could take each of those areas into account. Beyond the educational impact, Brick is being required to raise its school taxes to the maximum allowed under the state’s cap law, 2 percent, each year for seven years. But even with the maximum tax increases – which are mandated under a budget law negotiated between state Sen. President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Phil Murphy – the lost funding will not be recouped.
“If we do realize the full $23 million, it could be a combination of any of those things,” Dalton told Shorebeat, referring to a loss of jobs, reduction in programs and increased class sizes. “There are the pushes and pulls of enrollment, demands from the state and all of those types of things. It’s a matter of weighing and balancing all those things.”
Officials will also have to consider consolidating schools and reworking student transportation, he said, and the “tough decisions” will be made over the course of several years.
Tuesday’s march on Trenton is being organized by the school district, which has also initiated litigation against the state over the funding cuts.
Brick will provide bus transportation for residents who want to attend the rally. Toms River, whose school district will see cuts similar to those in Brick, is doing the same. The Brick district has set up a Google Form to fill out there for those interested in attending. Buses will depart from the Foodtown lot on Route 70 at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
When Toms River attempted to host a similar rally two years ago, Trenton officials responded by denying the district a parking permit for its buses in a move that was roundly criticized as shutting down opposition. This time, the 71 school districts involved have secured parking and will be able to rally.