The new state fund to offset school districts’ costs of implementing anti-bullying programs has fallen far short of demand.
Although legislation was approved earlier this year to allocate $1 million to cover the costs of districts’ anti-bullying efforts, local school officials requested nearly five times the amount available, according to news reports. For now, school districts are receiving 20 percent of the amount requested.
Some school districts received thousands of dollars to assist with anti-bullying programs, while others received as little as $36, according to news reports. No consideration was given to the merit of the application. The Record of Bergen County reported that a single charter school in Paterson received $9,166, while the entire Paterson school district, which has more than 28,000 students, received $15,307.
Funding Bill Enacted The $1 million in funding, part of a bill (A-2709) enacted in March, was designed to cover personnel expenses and other costs incurred by local school districts in implementing the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The March legislation also created a seven-member task force that will advise the New Jersey Department of Education on developing regulations to further define and implement the law and identify resources available to school districts.
The $1 million funding was in response to a Jan. 27 finding by the Council on Local Mandates, which deemed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act – which initially had no state funding available to implement local programs – to be a new unfunded state mandate as prohibited by a 1995 amendment to the state Constitution. The council acted on a complaint filed by the Allamuchy Township Board of Education.
NJSBA Surveys NJSBA supports the intent of the funding to support the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, but the Association has called into question the dollar amount.
In testimony before the Legislature, NJSBA questioned whether $1 million was sufficient to fund districts for the costs of the bill. NJSBA, in cooperation with the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, conducted surveys of school business administrators and superintendents about the financial and staffing impact of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights on local school districts.
Just over than a third of the state’s school districts were represented in the responses, which showed that more than $2 million was needed for personnel, training and software to implement the law.