NJ School District Faces $7M Budget Gap, Cuts Over 100 Jobs

Washington Township Public Schools in New Jersey faces a $7 million budget shortfall, leading to the elimination of over 100 jobs, including teaching and support staff positions. The district's funding crisis is attributed to the loss of COVID relief funding and reduced state funding.

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Nitish Verma
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NJ School District Faces $7M Budget Gap, Cuts Over 100 Jobs

NJ School District Faces $7M Budget Gap, Cuts Over 100 Jobs

Washington Township Public Schools in Gloucester County, New Jersey, is grappling with a significant financial crisis as it faces a projected $7 million budget shortfall for the 2024-2025 school year. The district has been forced to eliminate over 100 jobs, including 36 certified staff and teaching positions, 55 support staff, 4 administrators, 5 administrative assistants, and reduce 12 support staff to part-time positions.

Why this matters: The budget crisis in Washington Township Public Schools is a symptom of a larger issue affecting schools nationwide, where the expiration of federal pandemic relief aid and reduced state funding are expected to lead to widespread job losses and cuts to essential services. As a result, the quality of education and support for students, particularly those with special needs, may be compromised, with long-term consequences for their academic and personal development.

The budget shortfall is primarily attributed to the loss of COVID relief funding and reduced state funding. Despite Governor Phil Murphy's proposed record spending for public education in his 2025 fiscal year budget, more than 130 schools across New Jersey are set to lose money based on the state's funding formula. Washington Township Public Schools is expected to receive an additional $1.5 million in funding next school year, but this increase only prevents further cuts and does not account for increased salary obligations, benefits, tuition, and transportation costs.

Parents and staff are expressing concerns about the impact of the cuts on students, particularly those with special needs. Lauren Longo, a school teacher and parent, worries that her special needs son won't receive the necessary attention in the classroom. "All children have different needs... it's just sad to pull anything from children," Longo said. Angela Terruso, president of the Washington Township Supportive Staff Services Personnel Association, believes the board should explore alternative options, such as reducing administrative costs, instead of cutting support staff. "We have a lot of administrative costs. There's a lot of other places they could look," Terruso stated.

The school board has until May 14 to adopt a budget to be submitted to the state. While the board hopes to hire back some support staff based on student needs, the timeline for this remains unclear. Dr. Eric Hibbs, a school board member, acknowledged the difficulty of the situation, saying, "There was truthfully no way that we could've not looked at some form of staff in these reductions."

The budget crisis faced by Washington Township Public Schools is part of a larger trend nationwide, where thousands of teachers and school staff are expected to lose their jobs due to the expiration of massive federal pandemic relief aid. The $190 billion in K-12 relief funding, approved in 2021 under the American Rescue Plan, is set to expire, with districts required to spend the final portion by September. Researchers estimate that over 380,000 full-time school staff could lose jobs if districts revert to pre-pandemic staffing levels from 2018-19.

As Washington Township Public Schools grapples with the $7 million budget shortfall and the elimination of over 100 jobs, the district faces the challenge of balancing financial constraints with the need to provide quality education and support for its students. The expiration of federal pandemic relief aid and reduced state funding have left the district in a precarious position, with the potential impact on students, particularly those with special needs, causing concern among parents and staff.

Key Takeaways

  • Washington Township Public Schools faces a $7 million budget shortfall for 2024-2025.
  • Over 100 jobs, including 36 teaching positions, will be eliminated due to the shortfall.
  • Federal pandemic relief aid expiration and reduced state funding contribute to the crisis.
  • Parents and staff worry about the impact on students, especially those with special needs.
  • Nationwide, thousands of teachers and staff may lose jobs due to expiring pandemic relief aid.