Appreciating Value of Choice in LBI Consolidated District

By SARA COLAVITA | Nov 20, 2019

I am a proud Choice parent and while I do not own a home on LBI, I see myself and my family as members of this community. My children started their education in the pre-K program at Ethel Jacobsen School and have continued their education for the last six years in the E.J. and LBI Grade School.

As a Choice parent and active PTA member, I’ve been class mom, chaperoned field trips, watered and weeded the E.J. garden over the summers, read to my children’s classes, volunteered for Dr. Seuss Day, field day, class picture day and the annual book fair, as well as participated as a member of the school wellness committee. I attend board meetings and most recently a town hall meeting. My family frequents the LBI library in Surf City to the extent that every librarian there knows our names, and we eat and shop at LBI restaurants and businesses.

My husband jokes that he’s pretty sure my minivan could drive itself to the Island for how many times I cross the bridge each week. I love LBI and am thankful every day that my children are being educated here. However, my house is, in fact, on the mainland.

It seems to me that there has been a lot of concern during these town hall meetings that the Choice students cost our district money and that Choice families should not have an opinion as to the future of the LBI Consolidated School District because we do not pay taxes here and cannot vote here.

To this I say the following: Money is transferred from my home district to LBI to pay for my children’s education. No, it is not the full amount it costs to educate each child in LBI schools. Nor is it the full amount I pay in school taxes because I pay double the school taxes to educate students off the Island than my fellow LBI parents pay in school taxes on the Island.

But let’s be fair. We all pay school taxes for children that are not our own and there were many others who paid for our education when we were young. Moreover, for those with two homes, taxes are paid in two districts. Why? Because it is in the best interest of everyone to have well-educated children everywhere, irrespective of where your primary residence is located.

At most, the LBI School accepts 41 Choice students annually. These Choice students are sprinkled throughout the grades, kindergarten through grade 6, to help fund classes that would otherwise be too large for one class. If the incoming kindergartners, for example, total 26 LBI students, that is too many students for one class, based on the square footage of our classrooms and the student to teacher ratio.

For this reason, our district breaks the kindergartners into two classes of 13 students each, requiring two teachers. Enter four Choice students into the equation. Both classes become 15 students and the district gets funding for four Choice students to help pay for that second teacher.

Not only that but you get a Choice family committed to driving their student to school each day (no busing fees) and an extra volunteer for school events who most likely will end up spending a lot of time and money on LBI with Island friends at Island businesses. How is this anything but good sense?

I think there is a misconception that the average cost to educate each child is the same as the actual cost to educate each child in our school district. Allow me to explain.

Let us assume there are two classes composed of 15 students in kindergarten. Let us also assume that the cost to operate both classes totals $900,000 annually. This $900,000 includes two teachers’ salaries/health care, as well as all the fixed building expenses of operating these two classrooms for the year. The average cost to educate each child is $30,000. That’s simply taking $900,000 of expenses and dividing it by 30 students.

If I remove four Choice students from this equation, the district will not save $120,000 because the school district will need to continue to operate both classes, pay both teachers’ salaries/health care, as well as pay the fixed building expenses of operating these same two classes for the year. Now, however, the average cost to educate these two classrooms becomes $34,615 per child.

Meanwhile, the funding these Choice students brought in – let’s assume it was $12,000 per child – is lost to the district. In this scenario, that’s $48,000 lost in annual revenue ($12,000 multiplied by four). Removing the Choice program from our district would only end up costing taxpayers more, not less.

The Choice program makes both educational and financial good sense. I’m proud to be a part of it and appreciate the opportunity to participate in the discussion to help determine the future of the LBI School District.

Sara Colavita lives in Barnegat and has two children who attend LBI schools.














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