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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

BoE VP Ruth McAllister: "The State funding formula is not working"

We have two issues that must be addressed in Hoboken’s overall Public Educational System: funding fairness and balanced enrollment.  These two issues are universally recognized by all four district leaders, yes, all four districts, the Hoboken Board of Education Schools, Hoboken Charter School, Elysian Charter School and HoLa Charter School.  The four school leaders have all met to discuss these issues, at Dr. Toback’s behest, and they all agree that the State Funding Formula is not working for any of them and that there is an unintended segregation effect in our system on the school age child population and they all would like to address it.

In the recent discussions over the expansion of HoLa Charter School, the funding of only two districts was at stake.  The funding that was in question was either going to remain available to the Hoboken Board of Education schools or it would be diverted to HoLa.  Elysian and Hoboken Charter would not be directly affected.  HoLa’s Board and parents advocated for their funding and the Hoboken Board of Education and parents advocated for their funding.   I understood the HoLa board and parents actions, I spoke with, met and emailed many.  I also spoke with, met and emailed with many of the district’s parents. Both groups had something in common, they were equally passionate in their pleas and support for their own districts and their students, rightfully so. It is unfortunate, but the State has set up a situation where one district's gain is another district loss in terms of funding.

Dr. Toback and the charter school leaders have all expressed their concern for the unintended segregation effect. The question is how is this addressed?  The first step is always to acknowledge its existence and develop solutions.  When corporations review their statistics and see a diversity issue they create a diversity action plan to address the issue.    These written plans outline goals and actions over multi-year periods to achieve these goals.  A true effort involves evaluating why, addressing those reasons and evaluating your results.  Having four diversity plans is one solution, but I think the state needs to address its charter law and mandated lottery system to come up with guidelines to make this right.

I want the State of New Jersey to take responsibility for creating both of these community dividing issues.  We all need to lobby the state together to address the funding issue and the diversity issue with changes in legislation that do not pit one school district against another. 

Lastly, taking a critical look at how the funding is affecting the BOE schools and asking for relief does not translate to me wanting to close down all the charters.  I have sat quietly while the charter allocation has gone up from 4 million to 8 million dollars in 4 years.  Through responsible budgeting and eliminating waste in the budget, the BOE was able to absorb those and other increases and the decline in funding.  In 2009 there were approximately 525 employees on the payroll and now there are approximately 400.  We have diverted those savings to our classroom, to infrastructure, to technology, to professional development and extensive work on the curriculum. Unfortunately, many of our revenue sources have recently been constrained, State aid, federal Aid and (only our) School Choice cut, making it harder to accommodate our students while diverting ever increasing charter funding year after year.

I understand that these issues create contentious conversations.  I also know that my colleagues and I have worked diligently for the children and for the Hoboken taxpayer and resident.  We have a proven record of improvement in all areas and we will continue to work toward our goals even with the challenges that this year’s budget brings.

My email address is rmcallister@hoboken.k12.nj.us.  All are welcome to contact me about the above or any school related issue.



Thank you for considering my view,
Ruthy McAllister
Vice President

Hoboken Board of Education