The New Jersey School Boards Association on Aug. 25 joined in Governor Murphy’s call for federal financial support to help states and local school districts meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. Murphy emphasized the need for additional federal funding during his budget message for the nine-month abbreviated fiscal year, which will begin Oct. 1.
“NJSBA has been in contact with members of the state’s Congressional delegation to advocate for additional support,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, the Association’s executive director.
“Local boards of education are facing financial challenges in ensuring that schools are equipped to provide safe and productive learning environments for their students and staff,” he said. “Surveys of our members indicate that the earlier federal support through the CARES Act did not meet all of their needs in securing personal protective equipment and educational technology or making building alterations and enhancements.”
Murphy’s recommended budget will retain the adjusted amounts of 2020-2021 state school formula aid, $8.68 billion, announced previously, while allocating some funding from the federal CARES Act toward closing the digital divide—the lack of internet access and technological devices experienced by some 230,000 New Jersey students.
$100 Million State Health Appropriation Governor Murphy has also announced that the state will direct $100 million in CARES Act funding to help boards of education meet health standards related to expenses involved in reopening schools.
“We appreciate the governor’s plan to direct $100 million to help school districts meet health standards,” said Feinsod. “The governor has heard the concerns expressed by NJSBA and other educational advocacy organizations.
“Boards of education have been moving forward with reopening plans that meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, but these efforts have come at a financial cost that could have negative consequences in other areas,” he continued.
“Public school districts are under enormous pressure to implement in-person instruction and advance digital learning, while ensuring health and safety standards,” said Feinsod. “The additional funding provided by the state for pandemic-related costs will certainly help. However, the federal government needs to partner with the state and school districts in providing additional resources in order to deliver education safely and effectively during this public health emergency.”
Feinsod pointed to an analysis released earlier this year by the national organizations representing superintendents and school business administrators on implementing health and safety protocols. The analysis estimates that school districts nationwide can expect to spend approximately $490 per student to cover costs of PPE, sanitizing supplies, additional custodial staff and nurses.
Last week, NJSBA released a “Pandemic Advocacy Agenda” which called for additional federal and state financial support, statutory and regulatory flexibility in budgeting, assistance in securing PPE, and other changes to strengthen the ability of school districts to provide education during the pandemic.