Richard A. Sokerka
Gov. Chris Christie’s 2018 budget is not kind when it comes to aid for non-public schools.
It proposes a cut of $9 million from non-public school aid, reducing it from $95.5 million to $86.5 million. Included in the cuts are the elimination of the entire Non-public School Security Program, which had been funded at $50 per student and the elimination of increases in nonpublic school nursing services and technology aid.
These budget cuts to our parochial schools are unfair and need to be restored.
Nursing is essential to our schools because the state keeps adding more requirements to the already long list of responsibilities that school nurses have.
We can all attest to the importance of technology. Advancing it in our schools is a top priority, but the state’s Nonpublic School Technology program has only been funded in sporadic fashion since the 1998-1999 budget. Our legislators should be prioritizing the use of technology in our schools, not making cuts to it. At the least, our legislators need to find a way to keep the funding levels the same as this school year.
With the recent attacks on the facilities of people of various faiths, our students most certainly deserve the exact same security provisions given by the State to public schools. Eliminating the entire Nonpublic School Security Program is unconscionable, given the heightened state of security concerns in New Jersey.
Additionally, the ceiling for non-public school transportation has been frozen at $884 since the 2007-2008 school year. This situation means that districts and/or private bus operators cannot bid routes at beyond $884 per pupil. Transportation is vital to the daily operations of our schools and this per-pupil funding needs to be increased immediately.
Now is the time for all Catholics to call, write or email members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee and the legislators in the district in which they live. Tell them of the importance of restoring the $9 million removed from the non-public school accounts in the governor’s budget to minimally, the level of funding in the fiscal year 2017 Appropriations Act. Also tell them to increase the $884 in transportation funding to compensate for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases over the last 11 years that the State has negligently not added in.
The students in all our Catholic schools are depending on us to be their voice and see to it that the State restores these draconian budget cuts.