Opinion: The Hysteria over Pemberton school funding

Written by on April 20, 2021

The views and opinions written in this article are those of the author and do not represent WMSC or Montclair State University. 

The Pemberton Public School System, located in Burlington County, NJ  is being given a lot of attention as of late on state education aid. In the latest school funding formula signed by Governor Phil Murphy, Pemberton public schools had their aid decreased by about 4 million dollars. According to NJ.com, some people argue that while Pemberton public schools test scores and proficiency are below the state average, it is not fair that they receive substantially more aid than other struggling school districts in the area. 

Belleville Public Schools are in a similar situation with test scores, however, they have received less aid than their Pemberton counterpart. Both Belleville and Pemberton are in need of extra aid due to their below average academic scores and their need to implement more programs and classes to help students have a better shot at getting into college. Belleville and Pemberton both offer very few Advanced Placement (AP) classes, by cutting aid to the Pemberton Public School district and giving it to other struggling school districts such as Belleville.  It is simply exchanging one problem for another as students who are already struggling will see academic programs cut due to aid decreases. 

While it is true that Pemberton receives more aid than Belleville, Pemberton needs the extra aid because it has less tax revenue than Belleville. Pemberton’s job decline is 3.9% while Belleville’s job decline is only at about 0.9% according to bestplaces.net. This is in part due to Belleville’s industrial sector. New Jersey is losing jobs annually due to the high tax rates. The state legislature needs to pass tax breaks to businesses especially to areas with a low tax base and job growth like Pemberton. If we were to pass tax breaks for businesses to go to areas such as Pemberton, they would have more tax revenue for their schools and more jobs for people. 

According to the Reno Gazette Journal, Pemberton has a 16 % unemployment rate which is substantially more than the state average of 9.8%. The salary of administrators at public schools in New Jersey needs to be looked at. 

According to the Burlington Times, Jeff Havers, the Superintendent of Pemberton Public Schools makes $183,000 as his base salary which goes up annually. This is higher than the salary of the governor of New Jersey which is $175,000 annually. I believe that the salary of the governor should be lowered to $130,000 and superintendents should be capped at $130,000 annually. This would save thousands of dollars to dedicate towards academic programs for students and more AP classes in districts such as Belleville and Pemberton. 

Lastly, the 2020 school aid package sponsored by the Assembly Democrats is a perfect example of the Millburn/Princeton effect. Millburn and Princeton are two of New Jerseys best school districts, however, Millburn public schools saw a increase of over $500,000 to their budget and Princeton Public schools saw over a $200,000 increase to their school aid while school districts  such as Pemberton where the schools have less academic programs and students are falling behind had their aid cut. 


Article By Thomas Tarter

Photo by Nancy Rokos Staff Photojournalist for burlingtoncountytimes.com