TCNJ Magazine Spring 2020

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27 SPRING 2020 school districts by $283.6 million and increased funding for top priorities like the expansion of high-quality preschool and computer science education. That same year, Murphy would sign historic legislation that reworks New Jersey's decade-old school funding formula into a new model that the administration says is equitable because it "fully and fairly" funds public schools. Though New Jersey enacted the School Funding Reform Act in 2008, the formula was followed just once before Murphy took office in 2018. Hence, over the years, some districts became overfunded while other districts saw state funding fail to keep up with factors like fast- growing student enrollment. Through the legislation, the administration hopes to reduce aid to overfunded districts and increase aid to underfunded districts over seven years. Ultimately, by fiscal year 2025, the arrangement should ensure that all districts receive appropriate financing as stipulated by the state's School Funding Reform Act. In February 2020, Murphy unveiled a fiscal year 2021 budget that proposes $16.3 billion for public education, the biggest proposed commitment in state history. Though everyone hasn't lauded the changes — as many as nine districts have lobbed lawsuits at the state over cuts — Repollet believes the This belief was put to the test in March when Repollet directed school districts to create emergency- preparedness plans for home instruction in the event of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once Governor Murphy closed all schools, Repollet insisted that closure plans ensure equitable access to instruction for all students. This included providing special education and related services for students with special needs and food-security plans for students who depend on free and reduced-price lunch. "[Repollet] has been leading the department as our state navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, something that has disproportionately impacted our students and educators," Murphy says. The commissioner's considerations are future-proof, ensuring that the most marginalized students don't fall behind. And in recalling the blessing that was EOF and the educators who helped guide his life, he says educators must ready themselves to build community, supporting students socially, emotionally, and academically. Says Repollet, "it takes a special person to be an educator." ■ Fabiola Cineas is senior editor at Philadelphia magazine. reallocation reverses longtime funding disparities that worsened under former Governor Chris Christie. According to New Jersey's Department of Education, Christie underfunded the education system by $9 billion throughout his eight-year term. "When you put your money where your mouth is, you show exactly what you value. Our administration's historic investment in education is a determin- ing factor of why we've been success- ful," Repollet says. Achieving equity by opening up greater opportunities for all students, such as preschool funding, computer science programs, grants to underserved districts for post-high- school training and associate degrees, and the administration's P-TECH grants, which help students graduate with a high school diploma, associate degree, and work experience all in six years, remains his target. Repollet wants budding educators, especially those at TCNJ, to recognize that leadership is transformational, not transactional. Before stepping into the classroom, it's imperative that educators recognize their power, he says. "When you step foot into that classroom, you are responsible for those kids. You have the power to inspire them to love learning, but you also have the power to destroy what they're learning, to destroy their character." "You have the power to inspire [students] to love learning, but you also have the power to destroy their character."

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