2-13-20 Lenape Region Holds Community Forum

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    February 14, 2020

    Lenape Region School Districts Hold Community Forum to Address State Funding Cuts, Encourage Activism

    SOS Logo Medford, NJ – The Lenape Regional High School District and all eight of the K-8 districts in the Lenape Region joined forces on Thursday night to raise awareness of how reductions in state aid through Senate Bill 2 (S2) impact nearly 21,000 students – and all taxpayers – in this region. Collectively, these Lenape Region districts will lose an estimated $23 million by the 2024-2025 school year under the state’s new public school funding plan.

    Superintendents from Lenape Regional High School District, Evesham Township, Medford Township, Medford Lakes Borough, Mount Laurel Township, Shamong Township, Southampton Township, Tabernacle Township and Woodland Township addressed community members at an open forum, providing a sobering look at the near and long-term effects of funding cuts. Among other things, they warned of decreases in state aid leading to reductions in personnel, courtesy bussing, as well as fewer academic offerings and extracurricular activities.

    “We are fiscally responsible districts, and we have worked even harder since the passing of S2 to institute cost-saving measures and think creatively to maximize our fiscal efficiency,” said Dr. Carol Birnbohm, Superintendent of the Lenape Regional High School District (LRHSD). “We are beginning to exhaust all options and know that reductions in school funding threaten to severely diminish the options and services we afford our students.

    The superintendents urged all in attendance Thursday to get involved in advocating for a truly fair school funding formula to halt the drastic reductions in aid being made across the Lenape Region. All those interested in joining such efforts can visit www.lrhsd.org/JoinSOS to receive a template letter to government officials, a petition to sign and information about upcoming rallies.

    Advocacy efforts are coordinated through the statewide coalition – the Support Our Students Advocacy Group – representing 1.4 million New Jersey public school students from more than 97 school districts statewide. This coalition was formed to create strength in numbers when spreading awareness of school funding cuts and working to urge state legislators to find a better way to fund New Jersey schools. The Lenape Region superintendents are founding members of SOS, with Southampton Superintendent Michael Harris the group’s leading organizer.

    “Through our advocacy, we are urging our state’s leaders to work towards a solution that will ensure that every child and teen in New Jersey receives the education he or she deserves,” said Harris. “S2 as presently constructed is not the answer. It helps some students at the expense of others. We want a fair education for all. We want our region to continue priding itself on the reputation of its public schools.”

    Since the passing of S2, the Lenape Region superintendents and other school leaders have worked together to advocate on behalf of their students. They most recently joined 59 other districts in class action OPRA requests to uncover how the funding formula for schools is now calculated. They pointed out that the formula is flawed, especially since aid is not increasing or decreasing proportionately to student populations. They specifically noted that LRHSD’s enrollment has decreased by 12% since the 2009-2010 academic year, yet uncapped School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) Aid decreased by 32%. Evesham’s enrollment decreased by 7.25% since the 2009-2010 academic year, but its aid decreased by 57%.

    Revealing the hidden math behind the new school funding formula is among the top SOS advocacy goals. Those who join the effort by visiting www.lrhsd.org/JoinSOS will also help advocate for pausing the current cuts or extending the timeline to allow schools a longer adjustment period, as well as forming a Joint Committee to review the existing funding formula and consider solutions for moving forward to execute a fair education for all students throughout the state.