June 24, 2024
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Teach NJ Advocates for Funding Needs in State FY22 Budget

As anyone who’s worked in or watched the development of a New Jersey state budget can tell you, there are few things that are rock-solid guarantees. Tax revenues rise and fall, legislators’ priorities change, and what was a pressing need last year can become a “back burner” issue this year.

This is especially true this year, as COVID-19 concerns continue to dominate the news and inform state government thinking on a variety of matters.

Mindful of the evolving nature of the State budget process, leaders of Teach NJ—who serve as advocates for the needs of nonpublic schools throughout the state—have encouraged legislative leaders and officials in the governor’s office to allocate for continued support for four budgetary priorities. Teach NJ hopes to see these priorities, which received significant funding in the FY2021 State budget, supported in the FY2022 budget.

One early indication of the status of these budget priorities will be seen in Governor Phil Murphy’s Preliminary Budget for FY2022, which is slated for release within the next two to three weeks. One thing is certain: Leaders of Teach NJ, a part of the national Teach Coalition, which is affiliated with the Orthodox Union, will be watching closely as the Governor’s FY2022 budget is revealed and negotiations with the legislature begin.

Katie Katz, executive director of Teach NJ, and Dan Mitzner, director of state political affairs for the Teach Coalition, shared with the Jewish Link Teach NJ’s four priorities for the New Jersey State Budget funding:

#1: Increased funding for nursing aid to nonpublic schools

Mitzner stated that school nurses “are the quarterbacks of COVID-19 responses in their schools” and they help keep their schools open and operating safely. Given current circumstances, Teach NJ has asked for an increase in New Jersey State funding for nurses in nonpublic schools; in the current FY budget, the state provides roughly $102/student for nursing services in nonpublic schools.

#2: Maintaining state support for the innovative NJ State STEM program in nonpublic schools

In the FY2021 State Budget, New Jersey introduced a pioneering program that supports STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers from public schools who teach as well in nonpublic schools. Katz stated: “This program represents the first time in New Jersey State history that the state has funded education programs in nonpublic schools. And this is also the first public schools/nonpublic schools partnership of its type anywhere in the country. It is a real innovation.” Mitzner added: “Nonpublic schools face a challenge of recruiting qualified STEM teachers so this program is a great benefit to them.”

The STEM teachers program received $5 million in funding in FY2021, and Teach NJ hopes to see that funding level maintained in the FY2022 budget.

#3: Maintaining New Jersey State support for technology aid to nonpublic schools

In the State FY2020 budget, New Jersey provided $5.4 million for technology needs in nonpublic schools. In the FY2021 budget, the State was able to replace this allocation with $6 million in funding from the federal Cares Act. The Cares Act funding was restricted, however, in that it could only be used for one-to-one devices used by students or teachers and the actual funding became available later in the school calendar, after many schools had already purchased devices of this kind earlier in the year.

Teach NJ hopes to see the $5.4 million in funding for technology aid to nonpublic schools restored in the NJ State FY2022 budget, which would allow these schools to spend the funds on things like smart boards, software, connectivity, and other essential supplies.

#4: An increase in auxiliary services including compensatory education, English-language learning, and home instruction

These services are critical for thousands of students across the state, and often these students were most impacted by a change to remote or hybrid learning. As more and more students in the state become eligible for these services, funding for the program must grow as well. In the FY2021 budget, the State provided approximately $37 million to nonpublic schools for this essential need.

Teach NJ is hopeful that these funding priorities will be included in the State’s FY2022 budget. And they have that hope because they have effective champions in the New Jersey State Legislature; foremost among those champions is New Jersey Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

Mitzner stated: “We would not have made the progress we have, over the past few years, without the leadership of Assemblyman Schaer. He has been a real ally and partner and this year is no exception. Our community owes a big debt of gratitude to the Assemblyman.”

Assemblyman Schaer is similarly grateful for all the work of Teach NJ. “Teach NJ has proven itself to be of critical assistance in helping to bring much needed funding to private and parochial schools throughout New Jersey,” he said. “Teach NJ’s support of my efforts in the Legislature have been instrumental in expanding these programs for all of New Jersey’s students. Teach NJ can claim credit, in addition to other organizations, for helping my own efforts to secure tens of millions in funding for security, technology, nursing aid, and special education aimed at our yeshivot. Teach NJ efforts and its successes cannot be overstated.”

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