Council member objects to school report


by Eric green

HAMBURG — An annual ‘school report card’ has left at least one council member upset about the reported cost of education per student in the Hamburg Public School District.
“I just want to clear the water a little bit,” Council Member John Burd said at the Aug. 8 Mayor and Council Meeting. “There’s a lot of things that bring the price per child up to the amount which it is.”
Burd was apparently responding to an article that appeared in the New Jersey Herald on Aug. 3, which reported that, out of 25 school districts in Sussex County, the Hamburg School District ranked number one in the amount of money it spends annually to educate each student.
“We have 204 students,” Burd continued. “And first of all that’s not true. The paper says 204; we have 250 students.”
But according to Burd, there’s a wrinkle. Beyond the 250 students actually enrolled in the Hamburg School District, the borough also pays to send 32 additional students to the Sussex County Charter School for Technology in Sparta.
“We pay the tuition as taxpayers,” the council member stressed.
According to Burd, that tuition is approximately $15,500 per charter student annually. But because those 32 kids are not technically enrolled in the Hamburg School District, they are not counted when it comes to calculating the annual education cost per student. The tuition the borough pays for the charter school kids, however, is counted.
“That’s $497,758 in tuition costs which we have to pay to the charter school,” Burd said. “That’s 7 percent of the school budget. That’s the main reason that our cost per pupil is as high as it is.”
If the charter school students were added in, Burd went on to explain, total enrollment in the district would be 282 instead of 250. “It would greatly reduce the per pupil expenditure,” the council member said.
Council Member, Daniel Barr, also remarked on the charter school arrangement.
“There was a cap that they had on every single town in the county on how many kids they were going to take.” Barr said, recalling the founding of the school. “The cap on Hamburg, as I remember it, was 12 or 13 kids, and now they’re taking 32. They [Sussex County] never held to that cap.”
Barr went on to refer to the charter school as “a publicly-funded private institution.”