Sauickie demands answers over Newark schools’ $50K end of year bash

Sauickie demands answers over Newark schools’ $50K end of year bash

06/19/2024

 

TRENTON, N.J. – Jackson Township school administrators have little to celebrate as the academic year closes, with catastrophic cuts in state aid likely forcing the slashing of sports teams, more teaching positions, and more AP classes and electives. However, in Newark – a district kept afloat almost entirely through $1.15 billion in state aid – staff and students partied at an exclusive venue on the taxpayers’ dime.

Assemblyman Alex Sauickie wants answers.

“They’re cutting the rug while schools in my district are forced to cut classes and electives for schoolchildren,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “It makes you wonder exactly which districts are overfunded.”

According to news reports, the Newark Board of Education hosted a superintendent’s staff “fun day” at Forest Lodge in Warren on June 1 for 275 adults and 140 children for $43,813.90. An invoice obtained by TAPInto Newark shows the festivities included a continental breakfast, lunch menu and open bar service. State statutes prohibit taxpayer money from being used for alcoholic beverages.

In an email to the state’s Department of Education Acting Commissioner Kevin Dehmer Monday, Sauickie sought confirmation of the news reports and demanded to know “what the Department of Education plans to do about it.”

“I have constituents in my legislative district who work in the Newark City School District who have told me that they have ‘more money in the budget than they know what to do with,’” Sauickie wrote. “It seems to me that if this is true, and that the Superintendent and the Board of Education in Newark thought it was ok to spend $50,000 of taxpayer money on a party with alcohol, not only do they have more state aid money than they know what to do with, but they actually think they can do whatever they want with it.”

Since 2018, Jackson schools have lost $22.4 million in state aid following the enactment of the school funding law known as S2, despite its residents paying $68 million in income tax last year alone. Last fiscal year, the district had to take a $10 million loan from the state, and pay a state monitor, to close budget gaps. It faces a $25 million deficit for the 2024-25 school year but will not be permitted to seek another loan until deep cuts are made, requiring the elimination of more positions and programs, targeting honor societies, student councils and award-winning bands.

Meanwhile, Newark residents most recently paid $44 million in income tax yet received $1.15 billion in school state aid, more than 80% of that district’s total budget.

“As you know from our previous conversations, I, along with several other legislators surrounding my legislative districts, are fighting hard for every dollar for the school districts we represent,” Sauickie wrote. “…[It’s] disturbing to hear that the Newark City School District, which received a $100 million increase in school aid for the second year in a row, finds no problem with spending $50,000 on a party.”

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