Local districts under financial strain as vocational schools expand | Education

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When Greater Egg Harbor Regional School officials began planning their budget for next year, there was one expense they couldn’t discount: $4.5 million in tuition and transportation. for the County Vocational School.

The figure prompted a recent meeting between the two districts to allay concerns. The result was that Greater Egg board members learned that the Atlantic County Institute of Technology did not have the same state-imposed limit on its budget increase that local districts adhere to. The tax cap for county vocational schools applies only to the county budget, which funds part of the district, and not to the tuition it charges to local districts.

MAYS LANDING – Trustees of Greater Egg Harbor Regional and County Vocational School…

As enrollment and legislative support increase for vocational and technical education programs and state aid stagnates, local school districts are burdened with rising tuition to pay to send students out of the district.

“For every student who chooses to attend the county vocational school, their home school loses that student in their enrollment, which decreases state funding to the home district, and the district of origin is responsible for payment of all tuition fees at the technical school. and transportation costs,” said Steve Price, Superintendent of Cumberland Regional High School.

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Statewide, the county’s 21 vocational and technical schools are governed by legislation that requires them to open their doors to county residents and requires students’ home districts to fund tuition and transportation for students. send.


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Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools advocacy group, said tuition for county schools is determined by the Department of Education.

“It’s legal. The amount they can charge per student is their cost per student less state aid, county tax revenue, and any other sources of revenue,” Savage said.

Tension between local districts and county schools erupted this year when two lawsuits were filed claiming local schools were trying to dissuade students from attending vocational schools in order to save money. Both were developed through mediation.

Vocational school registration

Source: New Jersey Department of Education data

*Cumberland County Vocational School is still transitioning to a full-time school and adding grade levels each year.

Name of the school Registration 16-17 Registration 17-18 Change % Change
ATLANTIC CO-PROFESSIONAL 1556 1610 54 3.35
BERGEN COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 2221.5 2277.5 56 2.46
BURLINGTON CO PROFESSIONAL 2016 2012 -4 -0.20
CAMDEN COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 2015 2093 78 3.73
CAPE MAY CO PROFESSIONAL 654 634 -20 -3.15
CUMBERLAND CO PROFESSIONAL 419* 552.5* 133.5* 24.16*
ESSEX CO VOC-TECH 2147.5 2291.5 144 6.28
GLOUCESTER CO-PROFESSIONAL 1307 1402.5 95.5 6.81
HUDSON COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 2364.5 2600.5 236 9.08
HUNTERDON CO PROFESSIONAL 281 357 76 21.29
MERCER COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 609.5 584 -25.5 -4.37
MIDDLESEX CO PROFESSIONAL 2087 2075 -12 -0.58
MONMOUTH CO PROFESSIONAL 2213.5 2196 -17.5 -0.80
MORRIS COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 1054.5 1117 62.5 5.60
OCEAN COUNTY PROFESSIONAL 1361.5 1327.5 -34 -2.56
PASSAIC COUNTRY PROFESSIONAL 3461 3481 20 0.57
SALEM COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 826 774 -52 -6.72
SOMERSET CO PROFESSIONAL 472.5 472 -0.5 -0.11
SUSSEX COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 786 789 3 0.38
PROFESSIONAL UNION COUNTY 1753.5 1833.5 80 4.36
WARREN COUNTY VOCATIONAL TRAINING 456 464.5 8.5 1.83
TOTAL 30062.5 30944 881.5 2.85

ACIT Superintendent Phil Guenther said his school is trying to meet student and parent demand while keeping costs to a minimum.

“Our growth has been gradual since we completed the addition and transitioned to full-time,” he said. “It was based on demand.”

Guenther said students want to attend vocational schools because of economic uncertainty.

“I think parents, especially in Atlantic County, have gone through a very, very difficult time with the economic conditions in our county and would like to see their high school students focus on a career field,” he said. he said, adding that there was also interest from employers and student unions graduating from his program.

Vocational school leaders say increased state aid would help to significantly reduce the burden on local districts.

And it’s not like ACIT doesn’t deserve it: According to budget figures released by the Office of Legislative Services last month, the district receives $14.6 million less in state aid than it does. that he would receive under the Schools Funding Reform Act if growth limits and adjustment assistance were not in place. Based on these same assumptions, CCTEC should receive an additional $4.8 million.


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Technical schools also don’t spend a lot on administrative costs. In fact, state data shows that in most categories, ACIT’s per-student costs are below the state average.

Savage said she doesn’t hear the same issues statewide that she hears in South Jersey between local and county schools. She said the financial pressure schools are under for funding sources can add to the anxiety.

“There have been many years of level funding,” she said. “It is coupled with ceilings on tax levies. This comes with increased costs, so yes, resources are limited.

Chris Kobik is the superintendent of Lower Cape May Regional High School, which is at risk of losing funding under a proposal by Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney to revamp the school’s funding formula. He said the loss of state assistance, coupled with declining enrollment and rising costs to the district for the vocational school, would be devastating.

Local superintendents spoke of the benefits that vocational schools provide in counties, but said legislation continued to favor the expansion of vocational schools, including a proposed bond referendum in 2018 for hundreds of millions of dollars for expand county schools. Kobik called it “myopic at best” because it lacks additional funding for local high schools.

Kobik, Price and Greater Egg Superintendent John Keenan all said vocational schools are so successful because they have the ability to choose their students. Keenan has previously likened it to a private school operating with public funds.


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Guenther said students should be able to choose a program that meets their needs.

“When we consider where a student enrolls in school, it should be guided by what is best for the student and the parent making that choice,” he said. “It’s probably a benefit to the whole county that students and parents have choice.”

Kobik has been a proponent of school consolidation, but said the situation has not yet reached that level.

Price added that a solution will only be found when all stakeholders come together. He said he considered consolidation as a possible solution.

“I would go to more county-based school districts so that we share the benefits with all students in the county, not just the creme de la creme who can pass the entrance exam to our county technical schools,” Price said.

Contact: 609-272-7251 [email protected] Twitter @clairelowe

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