By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank Board of Education approved the hiring Tuesday of two teachers whose jobs were made possible by an increase of $512,682 in additional state aid.
Up to six more teachers and instructional aides are expected to be added to the district’s payroll for the coming school year under what Superintendent Jared Rumage called a “gigantic” cash infusion from Trenton into the still-underfunded district.
Brought on board were a middle school special education teacher, at a salary of $49,500, and a primary school literacy interventionist, at $55,440.
The board also approved the hiring of a replacement special education teacher whose $50,000 salary was budgeted before the infusion of new aid, Rumage said.
The funding was part of the $181 million in additional aid included in the state budget by Trenton Democrats and signed by Governor Chris Christie following a three-day shutdown of the government earlier this month. As reported by NJ Spotlight, the sum is “a small fraction of the estimated $2 billion gap” between what the state’s school districts receive and what they’re due under state law.
Over the past decade, as its enrollment has soared by 58 percent, to nearly 1,460 students, Red Bank has been shortchanged more than $6.4 million in required funding, even as other districts with shrinking enrollment have maintained their funding, local officials contend.
As a result, the two-school district has two dozen fewer teachers and other personnel than it needs, Rumage said in April, when the board approved a $22 million budget that raised the local school portion of property tax bills by 3.26 percent, or $145 for the year for the owner of a home assessed at the town-average $362,342.
Rumage said he learned the sum of the additional state aid last Friday afternoon.
“This, I can’t even joke that it’s a small victory,” Rumage told the board and a dozen or so people in the audience at the middle school Tuesday night. “This is a gigantic step, and one that will certainly bolster our journey” to become what he touts as a “best in America” district.
He told redbankgreen afterward that he hopes to add as many as five teachers and three instructional assistants with the funds, but that the plan has not yet been finalized.
None of the additional cash is to be shared with the Red Bank Charter School, Rumage said. Last year, the district was required to pass through about $1.6 million of its $3 million in state aid to the charter school.
Rumage heaped praise on borough parents for making repeated trips to Trenton to lobby for full funding.
“Like our defeat of the charter school expansion 18 months ago, this was certainly a community effort,” one that also involved work by local legislators and some of his fellow superintendents to “keep this issue in the spotlight.”
Board member Ben Forest said he thinks the district “should pursue a legal remedy” to obtain more of what it’s owed under the law, but he did not make a formal motion to that effect.
“I’m very happy to receive the money,” he said, “but I don’t think this is a good, long-term solution.”
While there’s no assurance the funding will be maintained next year, Rumage sold redbankgreen he was “optimistic” that it will be under a new governor.