Setting The Record Straight: The Truth About Lakewood In The Recent School Funding Report

The State Office of Legislative Services recently unveiled a report regarding school funding in New Jersey, shedding light on the shortcomings of the funding formula concerning children attending private schools. Lakewood Alerts had the opportunity to thoroughly examine this report and will provide a comprehensive overview here. Being that another website published outright misinformation regarding this report, Lakewood Alerts seeks to rectify the inaccuracies.

The report brought to the forefront various areas of concern, particularly related to the situation in Lakewood. Firstly, the report asserts that Lakewood should consider raising property taxes, bearing in mind that there currently exists a 2 percent tax cap. By lifting this cap, Lakewood could potentially impose even higher property taxes on its already strained taxpayers.

Secondly, the state employs a funding formula based on the assumption that 15.9% of children within a district will require special education services, allocating funds accordingly. However, in the case of Lakewood, according to data from the 2021 school year, this figure stood at 33.9%. It’s worth noting that five other districts also exceeded the 30% mark.

The second focal point of concern pertains to the fact that the state only covers transportation costs exceeding $710 per mandated child. This contrasts with a report on another news outlet that suggested an increase in the aid in lieu amount would burden Lakewood with more expenses.

A quote from Lakewood BOE Attorney Michael Inzelbuch further exacerbated the situation by claiming that the increase in aid in lieu to $1,165 would lead to a $1.5 million to $3.8 million liability for Lakewood. However, the truth is that the state takes care of ALL COSTS surpassing $710. The issue lies in the fact that the $710 benchmark incurs considerable unaccounted-for expenses for Lakewood. The article perpetuates the notion that transportation for private school students is an entirely unfunded mandate – it is not.

For the upcoming year, the aid in lieu amount is $1,165 – $710 will be covered by the local school district, with the state contributing $455 per child. According to the report’s findings, between 2014 and 2021, the Lakewood school district was allocated $488.7 million for special education tuition and transportation. Out of this sum, $401.3 million was dedicated to tuition for out-of-district special education, while $87.4 million was allocated for transportation.

Lastly, the report recommends Ocean County establish a commission akin to the MOESC (Monmouth Ocean Educational Services Commission) in Monmouth County. MOESC provides services to districts, encompassing the handling of non-public school students. It’s important to clarify that this isn’t at all like the LSTA (Local Schools Transportation Aid). The emphasis for the district’s concerns is primarily on special education, not solely transportation. MOESC takes on responsibilities for both special education expenses and transportation services, as illustrated by the data.

The full report can be read by clicking here. 

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