Catholic school officials worried about state budget


Some 600 students from St. Mary School in Williamstown took part in a walk-a-thon fundraiser recently, to not only raise money for their school, but to increase awareness for proposed budget cuts the state of New Jersey is considering applying to St. Mary’s and to all other nonpublic schools in the state.

The state is considering eliminating the Nonpublic School Technology Initiative, in place since the 1998-99 school year, and the 30-mile extended distance for nonpublic school transportation for nonpublic school students living in the counties of Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Warren, and Sussex, for the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget.

Cumberland, Salem, and Gloucester are in the Diocese of Camden.

The changes would mean a 10.5 percent decrease in funding for nonpublic school students. Conversely, Gov. Jon Corzine’s budget calls for a $304 million increase for public school students, a fact which has also bothered proponents of nonpublic schools.

The 2010 budget is expected to be voted on, and passed, by both houses of the Legislature on June 30, to take effect July 1.

The technology initiative was established to, in its guidelines for administering the bill (August 2007), “provide nonpublic school pupils with computers, educational software, distance learning equipment and other technologies that can improve their education by meeting their specific educational needs and to give nonpublic school teachers the skills, resources, and incentives to use educational technologies effectively to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.”

With the program allotting $40 per pupil per year, the elimination of the nonpublic school technology initiative would mean a significant decrease in funds for schools such as St. Mary’s.

The students “wanted to do something to help our school,” St. Mary advancement director Terri O’Connell said about the fundraiser.

Catholic school officials, such as the Diocese of Camden’s Sister Rose DiFluri, assistant superintendent for government programs, and George Corwell, associate director for education, New Jersey Catholic Conference, are urging nonpublic school families and supporters to contact members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and the Assembly Budget Committee, and ask them to restore funding for the two programs.

It is important, they stressed, to make contact by June 15 to give Budget Committee members enough time to file budget amendments and include them in the final version of the legislation, to be passed by the two houses.

P. Usha Rosidivito, director of the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families, noted the setbacks schools “will have if this legislation takes place. It’s a detriment to the kids.”

Chris Krawice, St. Mary’s school board president, is urging families and supporters of the Catholic schools in the Camden Diocese to make their voices heard in time to amend the budget, and bring back needed funds.“This is impacting our school directly. We need to get this out.”