NJEA supports the fiscal year 2021 budget and revenue raisers. We would like to thank the legislature for working with the governor to prioritize public education, its students and employees in this year’s budget.
NJEA supports revenue raisers to ensure that the state can meet its obligations, including the millionaires tax and the 2.5% surcharge on corporations that earn over $1 million, although we believe this should be made permanent. These taxes will increase revenue and help reduce income inequality in our state.
This budget includes a $4.7 billion pension payment that continues the state’s path toward fully funding the pension, helping to ensure the solvency of our members’ retirement income while helping ensure the state’s fiscal health. And while money is tight during this pandemic, NJEA appreciates that school funding was not cut, there is additional money for extraordinary special education aid, and that the budget allocates federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to help meet health and safety standards, as well as additional funding for other programs such as expanded pre-k.
On behalf of our state’s community colleges and our members who work in them, we thank the legislature for restoring community college operating aid. Even with this aid restored, however, money is tight at our community colleges, and with decreased enrollment due to the pandemic and limitations on how CARES money is spent, many of our community colleges are still in need of more funds. The same is true of K-12 education. Although K-12 aid was not cut, aid adjustments as a result of S-2 and the added costs of supplies needed because of the pandemic leave many districts facing budgetary shortfalls. Additional funding for schools would help districts meet safety protocols and maintain their instructional programs.
We also thank the legislature and the governor for restoring aid to the School Based Youth Services Program, which funds vital mental health services for students, and urge the legislature to consider funding for additional mental health services. The need for these services has only increased because of the pandemic.
This budget comes at a very difficult time for the state. NJEA thanks the legislature and the administration for making public education a priority in this budget, by funding existing programs, the pension payment, a commitment to K-12 and higher education funding, and extra funds to respond to the pandemic. We look forward to working together this year and in the future to ensure that our schools and community colleges can continue to provide excellent education to New Jersey’s students through this pandemic and beyond.