Dear Eatontown Public Schools Community Member:
Over the last seven years, Eatontown Public Schools has participated in the school funding debate in an active and thoughtful manner. The Board of Education and I have written letters on behalf of the school system, submitted information to various government officials about our school district, and attended many meetings with local legislators as well as the Governor’s Team in order to demonstrate the negative impact the elimination of Adjustment Aid would have on our schools in the future. Although our data and information presented along the way demonstrated that Eatontown Public Schools has experienced many challenges and special circumstances over the years, the law governing school funding, S-2, continues.
District officials were informed that Eatontown Public Schools would experience a seventh consecutive state aid reduction of $145,982 for the 2022-2023 school year. At face value, this may not seem like a substantial cut, however, the district received cuts of $429,523, $522,703, and $520,884 over the previous three years. Once all the state aid cuts are enacted by S-2, Eatontown Public Schools will lose $2.3 million dollars in state funding annually. Please click on this link to see the Budget Presentation for the 2023-2024 school year and please examine slide #17.
As a community member, you are aware of the impact the closure of Fort Monmouth had upon our community and schools. When Fort Monmouth closed in 2010, student enrollment decreased. In addition, the Eatontown economy was impacted as well. Over the last 13 years, our schools have committed to providing effective services to students from a diverse array of educational backgrounds and learning styles. The success of our school system is its ability to provide appropriate programs from Gifted and Talented to Special Education services to our diverse student population. In addition, the district has provided staff and programs to meet students’ Social and Emotional needs.
Our chief concern continues to be the massive reduction in state aid without any consideration of other portions of the school funding formula that may be due to Eatontown based upon our rapidly changing district. The Board of Education and I recognize that student enrollment has decreased. The students who make-up Eatontown’s enrollment figures have changed. According to Rutgers University, Eatontown is one of 18 communities in NJ that has a population that is perfectly correlated to the entire NJ population. In addition, here are a few ways our student enrollment has changed over the years:
Currently, our Free and Reduced Lunch population is 45%.
Our special education population is about 22%.
Our ELL population is about 10%.
By cutting state aid by millions of dollars, the state funding plan severely limits our district's ability to provide a “thorough and efficient” education for Eatontown students in the future. According to the NJ Constitution and past NJ Supreme Court decisions, a “thorough and efficient” education is defined simply as a requirement that the State ensures equal educational opportunity for school children in our state.
Moving forward, the Board of Education and I hope that the State will consider other factors in addition to enrollment numbers. Eatontown is not the same community it was when Fort Monmouth was thriving. Our needs have changed. The Board of Education and I will continue to work with local and state officials to address this challenge and work to minimize the impact of these state budget decisions on our students.
There are no easy answers to this complex problem. Under the current rules, Eatontown Public Schools needs to change in order to respond to this funding crisis. With the state not reconsidering its position at this time, the Eatontown community needs to tackle this problem at the local level. The only way to balance future budgets based upon the current state funding schedule is to drastically reduce expenses. Unfortunately, expenses are code for programs, materials, and staffing. Next year, the district needs to cut 7 staff positions to balance the budget. Some class sizes in grades 3 through 6 will increase due to these staffing cuts. In addition, the district will experience reductions in the Special Education and Gifted & Talented departments. Please review Slide #20 from the aforementioned Budget Presentation. On a positive note, the budget does support after-school programs, field trips, and athletics for another year. Our students and team deserve better.
I appreciate your time and consideration. If you would like to support our schools and advocate for change, please consider contacting your local legislators below as well as the Governor’s Office. This is an election year. Please consider telling our elected officials that the funding formula needs to be reviewed and reformed before the next budget season.
Scott T. McCue Superintendent of Schools
Nelson Ortiz Eatontown Board of Education President