By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
Bringing good news for Catholic schools across New Jersey, the approved state budget will restore funding for nonpublic school transportation, technology and nursing and retain funding for security.
“With the combined efforts of all of our school communities contacting both their legislators and Gov. [Phil] Murphy, we made our voices heard and have had funding restored,” said Frances Koukotas, diocesan director of the New Jersey Network of Catholic Families.
The $37.4 billion state budget was signed July 1. Funding for the 2018-2019 school year will include, per pupil, $1,000 for transportation, $36 for technology, $97 for nursing and $75 for security.
Historically, the budget was frozen at $884 per student for transportation – an amount that was, for some districts, not enough to secure bids from busing companies. In the 2017-18 budget, the funding for transportation was increased to $1,000.
“The dilemma now is that bids might have already taken place before the restoration of transportation to $1,000 per pupil,” Koukotas said. “What we have to do as soon as possible is get the word out to [individual] districts … and to the bus companies.” The goal is to alert them of the restored funding and ask the companies to delay their decisions until they officially learn of the increased amount, she explained.
“This funding is particularly critical to our Catholic schools’ ability to transport our children – many of whom are not Catholic – to and from their Catholic schools,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said in an April 19 message asking diocesan Catholics to contact their state legislators and ask them to return funding to 2017/2018 levels.
Bishop O’Connell also met May 9 for a breakfast in his home with New Jersey legislators from districts 6, 7, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 30 to discuss the budget. Deacon Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, and Father Michael Wallack, diocesan director of vocations, also participated in the gathering.
“The restoration of this funding,” the Bishop told the legislators, “is critically important to our Catholic schools … It is difficult for Catholic schools to compete with taxpayer-funded public schools as it is, despite the excellent academic quality, high graduation and college admission rates, and multiple community service initiatives evident in Catholic schools.”