MORANA: “WE’RE NOT GETTING ANYTHING”

IMG_6290While dedicated funding will pay for an expansion of the pre-K program, nearly all of the remaining state aid would be passed through to the Red Bank Charter School, Morana says.

The news from Trenton had Red Bank school officials elated, disappointed and “confused” all at once yesterday.

Elated because the state allotment of funds to schools under Governor Chris Christie’s austerity plan will put enough money into the district for an expansion of its highly regarded pilot pre-kindergarten program.

But baffled and deeply let down because, as it stands, the borough will net just $24,000 for all other needs, after deducting funds the two-school district is obligated to pass-through to the Red Bank Charter School.

Against a proposed $19.9 million spending plan, the state’s contribution is barely perceptible, says Superintendent Laura Morana.

“We’re not getting anything at all,” she told redbankgreen yesterday. It’s so perplexing to local officials that they are pressing the Christie administration for an explanation.

According to revised figures received by the district yesterday, it might appear at first glance that Red Bank is getting more than $4 million in state aid, or just a one percent decline from last year, whereas other districts are seeing their funding slashed by as much as five percent of overall spending.

Wealthier districts including Rumson and Little Silver are getting no aid under Christie’s proposed $29.3 billion budget, which calls for cutting $820 million in aid to schools. Detailed information by district is available at the state Department of Education website.

In truth, though, $2.63 million of Red Bank’s allotment is earmarked for a teaching three- and four-year-olds, Morana said. While the sum is slightly less than the district had sought, it’s still enough to broaden the program to all borough children of those ages, and thus to eliminate a lottery for admission that’s been used in the first two years.

“I can’t tell you how delighted we are about that,” Morana said. “That is incredibly good news.”

But state aid for general use was slashed to $1.71 million, from $2.51 million a year ago. And of that amount, $1.69 million is to be funneled to the charter school, Morana says.

“Which leaves us with $24,000,” she said. “That’s what we’re dealing with right now.”

Morana said she does not yet know how the new figures will impact the proposed budget introduced by the board of education earlier this week. That plan, which is due for submission to the Monmouth County board Monday, was expected to result in the elimination of six jobs. It was also forecast to increase the local-schools portion of property tax bills by one cent per $100 of valuation.

Morana said she is pressing the administration for a “clarification” of how the district’s aid allotment was calculated.

“What was the formula that was used?,” she said she wanted to know. “Did they take into account all of the factors, including the payment to the charter school?

“It’s all very confusing.”

Christie appeared in Long Branch yesterday at the New Jersey Charter Schools Association annual conference, where he told about 400 administrators and teachers that they have a friend in the Statehouse. He said aid to the state’s 68 charter schools would remain “relatively flat,” according to a press release by the association.