Monmouth County Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey toured schools in the underfunded Red Bank Borough School District Friday, renewing calls for fair funding in the face of enrollment spikes and flat funding. Houghtaling and Downey joined Red Bank Superintendent Dr. Jared Rumage for tours of Red Bank Primary School and Red Bank Middle School, followed by a meeting with Superintendent Rumage to discuss what can be done to further the fight for equitable school funding.
Houghtaling and Downey were prompted to tour underfunded Red Bank schools after touring schools in Freehold Borough, another district that has faced enrollment spikes and deterioration of facilities. Calling the situation in Freehold Borough atrocious and unacceptable, the Assembly Members reached out to Red Bank to see first-hand the challenges they are facing.
"This chronic underfunding is an issue we need to keep in the limelight, because it's been sliding under the radar for far too long," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth), who recently joined parents and teachers from Red Bank and Freehold Borough schools at an Assembly Budget Hearing in Trenton, "The Christie Administration has been slashing and burning the education budget for years, to the detriment of New Jersey's children."
The 2008 School Funding Reform Act formula, which aimed to allocate more money to schools with higher numbers of students who have special needs, do not speak English, or are considered at-risked, is supposed to dictate the amount of state education aid districts receive. Red Bank, which has a sizable Latinx population, is still facing severe underfunding following deep budget cuts at the state level, followed by flat funding or negligible increases in the following years. Eleventh District schools alone are underfunded by $18.8 million in the 2015-2016 state budget, on top of the $17.5 million shortfall the prior year.
"These schools are in crisis, and we need to ask what kind of priority we are going to give education funding in the coming year's budget," said Downey (D-Monmouth), "Today we saw how kind and hardworking the students, teachers, and administrators are in Red Bank, but that only reaffirms the need for fair funding, to give them the resources they need. We need to act quickly and decisively on this issue. Monmouth County students cannot wait another day."