New Jersey taxpayers spend $19,000 every time a non-public school child transfers to a public school. With less than three weeks until final decisions are made, all New Jersey residents have a stake in Gov. Christie’s non-public education funding plans for 2016-17.
“People think it’s a Catholic school issue,” said Sister Rose DiFluri, assistant superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Camden. “But it’s about making sure all school-aged children in New Jersey have equitable access to a safe school with appropriate resources. We’re talking about needs that must be met no matter where a child attends school. If some of those basic needs — like transportation — aren’t met, parental choice doesn’t really exist.”
When school choice is no longer a reality, the financial burden comes back to taxpayers in increased costs for public schools.
Sister Rose works closely with the New Jersey Catholic Conference (NJCC), which represents the Catholic bishops of New Jersey on matters of public policy. She keeps school principals up to date on NJCC efforts and has been active in the Voter Voice Campaign to influence funding policies for the coming school year.
The governor’s preliminary plan calls for a 6.8 percent cut in funding for essential resources. The NJCC has recommended funding decisions in four key areas, including:
- School security aid. The plan for 2016-17 includes no allotment for non-public school students. The NJCC recommends restoration of the current $25 per student, which is significantly less than the $144 allocation for public school students.
- Transportation. The $884 allotment has not increased since 2008. This amount does not cover the cost of a contract with private bus companies in a number of diocesan school communities.
- Nursing services. The budget for a school nurse was cut from $94 per student to $85 in 2015-16. The Catholic Conference recommends restoration of the $94 allotment.
- Technology aid. The Catholic Conference seeks reinstatement of the original $40 per student allotment, which was introduced in 1999. The amount has fluctuated below $40 for several years.
The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden need your voice. Two separate committees (Assembly and Senate) will influence the Governor’s decision. Go to https://www.CamdenDiocese.org/NJSchoolsVote, where you will find a link to sample text and instructions for emails to assembly representatives and senators.
You do not need a direct connection to Catholic schools to help ensure all New Jersey students have equitable access to a safe school and essential resources. And a vote to support non-public school funding is a vote that favors taxpayers as well.
Mary Beth Peabody is communications and marketing manager, Office of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Camden.