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NJ Top Education Official and Superintendent Talk Budget, State Aid

East Windsor Regional School District's state aid is up about $1.2 million this year.

Superintendent Edward Forsthoffer briefed Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf on the proposed school budget and impact of the district’s state aid allocation on Thursday, before giving the state’s top education official a tour of .

This year the received about $18.3 million in aid, up from about $17.1 last year, and will mainly be used to purchase a comprehensive K-5 literacy program and hire additional staff, Forsthoffer told Cerf.

“We weren’t happy with our elementary school literacy scores, so we’re really investing in a comprehensive program,” Forsthoffer said, noting if not for state aid they would have needed to purchase the program through a series of installments.

The proposed budget also calls for the hiring of an in-house behaviorist, two special education teachers, three high school core content teachers, three elementary basic skills teachers, a bilingual teacher and restoring five coach and assistant coach positions.

“This district is quite typical in one respect and that is you have a lot of high performing kids,” Cerf. “But you clearly have also got a couple of schools here that have pretty big gaps and that may be your LEP (Limited English Proficient) population.”

Forsthoffer told Cerf the biggest difficulty the district has faced is having a large bilingual population. 

“Every districts going to have something that they have to spend more time or attention on and that’s an area we do because we want to make sure that the students are as prepared when they graduate high school whether they came here speaking English or not,” he said.

About 90 percent of districts are receiving more state aid year to year, and Cerf said although every district is different, this year money is mainly being used on teacher training for the common core curriculum, investments in educator evaluation systems and hiring.

“How much you spend is important, but how well you spend it is certainly equally important,” Cerf said, noting that the past few years forced districts to think about what matters and prioritize accordingly. 

“The governor is actually able to say now that he has invested more money in state aid effective this coming year than any other governor has done before,” Cerf said, noting the Corzine administration cut a billion dollars in state aid to schools and substituted it with federal aid.

and the proposed budget falls under the 2 percent cap with a 1.73 percent tax levy, there will not be a public vote. The final public hearing on the budget will be held March 26.

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