|Funding--Judge Testimony--Senate Hearing 1-27-17|
Testimony Before the Senate Select Committee on
School Funding Fairness
Kingsway Regional High School
Woolwich Township, NJ
Friday, January 27, 2017
Good afternoon Sen. Sweeney and ladies and gentlemen of the committee. My name is Kathryn Judge, a BOE member from Cherry Hill, the 12th largest school district in NJ, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today to shed light on the lack of funding and would like to address this complex subject in the context of my own district’s experiences. I also sit on the Garden State Coalition of Schools Executive Board. You will hear many stories from GSCS districts with your tour of the state on this topic.
In Cherry Hill, we were forced with some very difficult decisions when the Governor confiscated $3.2 million dollars from our fund balance in 2010 and slashed our budget (we were penalized for being frugal). Today, we do not receive what we received in 2009, even though many other school districts have been brought back to at least the 2009 budget levels.
For the last decade, we have focused our energies on maintaining low class size and instruction of the children of our district. This has concentrated our resources in the classroom, but has also restricted important programs in the district.
We cut spending on Professional Development and reduced stipends in each sport and club, which saved the district almost $300,000. However, at the middle school level, sports are now restricted to approximately 20 kids per sport. There is no money. Previously, any child could participate.
The average age of our 19 buildings is 50 years old and working space is limited. Our current budget severely restricts maintenance efforts. We would need a multimillion dollar referendum just for black top.
We have no plans for a 1:1 technology initiative in Cherry Hill, to the surprise of our Executive County Superintendent. In fact, we use technology much longer than the expected life of 3-4 years with some of our technology extending beyond 7 years. We don't have the money.
In some of the AP classes at both East and West High School, there are 41 children sitting in the classroom. Our classrooms were not built to hold 41 desks. Some of the children sit on the floor and hope someone is absent so they can have their desk that day.
We do not offer full day kindergarten. We don't have the money for staffing and we don't have the space. If there is a mandate that we must offer full day kindergarten, it will not be in the traditional sense of home elementary schools because, again, we don't have the space. At one time, our District Factor Group was IJ. As of the last time District Factor Groups were analyzed, we are now GH. Even that designation no longer accurately reflects our District.
Of our 19 schools, a third are Title I schools. In those six building, one in three children are eligible for free and reduced lunch (33%)! 81% of Cherry Hill's school budget is from our local tax payers. Just think about that a minute. 81%!
In closing, clearly, Cherry Hill is no longer the 'wealthy' or “affluent' school district it once was and that the local media continues to refer to Cherry Hill as. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak in front of you today. I am happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Kathryn Bay Judge, Cherry Hill School District