Sunday, September 27, 2015

Freehold Boro: "Where children are packed on top of each other"

The Asbury Park Press again offers superb coverage of Freehold Boro's burgeoning student population and state aid crisis.

This is a follow-up to an earlier post I wrote on Freehold Boro which presented more data on Freehold Boro's state aid situation.

Freehold schools have become ground zero for the local immigration debate — albeit a conversation move civil than the one at the national level. The district has been overwhelmed by the influx of mostly Latino students. Voters, weary of high taxes in this working-class town, twice rejected a bond measure to alleviate crowding and say they can't solve the crisis alone.....
No Room To GrowDuring a preschool orientation earlier this month, parents packed the auditorium at Park Avenue Elementary waiting to see their new classrooms and meet their teachers. Instructions were read in English, then Spanish.
But instead of walking down the hallways, half the room boarded yellow school buses — their classrooms were three miles away in rented spaces the next town over.
Freehold schools have no more room to spare. The pre-k through eighth-grade district — the only one in Monmouth County to receive federal dollars for full-day preschool — rented three classrooms inside Freehold Township’s schools to accommodate pre-k students. It already rents six classrooms for kindergarteners.
Factor in the cost of transportation, rent and custodial services, and that’s $192,224 less the district has available to spend on actually educating its youngest students.
Built to house no more than 1,100 students, 1,700 are enrolled in Freehold schools this year. Of those, 72 percent are Hispanic and more than three-quarters receive free or reduced-price lunch, district officials say.
“It’s been a straight up trajectory of Hispanic students,” said Tomazic. One in four students was Hispanic in 1998. Now, it’s nearly three in four.

Unlike many Abbotts, Freehold Boro does not shirk its own taxing responsibilities.  Freehold Boro's taxes are above Local Fair Share.

The fact that many NJ districts have populations which are growing AND getting poorer is why the Christie/legislature/NJ School Boards Association/Education Law Center policy of not allowing any district to lose aid is bankrupt.

It might seem benign to not allow any district to lose aid, but when every district is treated the same districts with growing populations are hurt.  Since the Pension Crisis prevents any overall increase in state aid, New Jersey NEEDS REDISTRIBUTION.

The situation in Freehold Boro also underscores how ridiculous and harmful the NJ Supreme Court's requirement that the state pay for 100% of facilities costs in the Abbotts is.  How is it fair that Hoboken and Jersey City get the state to pay for 100% of new buildings while a poor district like Freehold Boro would have to pay for most of its new facilities itself?

The plight of Freehold Boro is exactly the reason why NJ needs more money for SFRA, the reduction of segregative aid diversions like Interdistrict Choice, and the redistribution of aid.

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