New Wallkill Valley head challenges Vo-Tech tuition

| 29 Jul 2014 | 01:11

    HAMBURG — New Wallkill Valley Regional High School interim Superintendent Robert Walker announced June 22 that he will challenge the tuition cost of students attending Sussex County Technical School and will meet with state legislators regarding the situation.

    “Once starting here, I was disturbed to learn that $276,000 is being removed from our classrooms to go to Tech tuition,” Walker said.

    Walker went on to explain that in a 40-year time span, there was no tuition cost for Wallkill Valley students to attend Sussex Technical School. Within the last three years, however, technical schools all across the state have started to charge public schools tuition.

    “I know for a fact that Somerset and Salem counties were not (charging tuition) three years ago," Walker said. "Now, they are charging us $2,300.00 per pupil. They try to tell you that everyone is doing it, but that just simply isn’t the case. I fought tuition payment at Kittatinny for 15 years."

    Forty years ago, there were two sources of funding for Sussex Tech: the county and the state.

    “I met with the county administrator, John Eskelson, and he wondered what Wallkill was doing with all the Tech money and assumed we got money for every student that went to Tech. I assured him we have not gotten a dime. When have you heard something so ridiculous that we would get money for Sussex Tech kids?” Walker went on to say, “Get this, the county Superintendent of Schools told him that.”

    Frustrated at the administration's misunderstanding of the tuition issue, Walker admits he is furious that over the course of a year, $1.5 million is taken out of taxes just for tuition to Sussex Tech alone. That comes out to $15 million in 10 years time.

    “I think we need to compare communities and schools," Walker said. "Little Sussex County has 146,000 people. Bergen and Passiac have nearly a million."

    Moving forward, Walker has planned a meeting with state legislators Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Parker Space, and Assemblywoman Littel-McHose. In doing so, he hopes to eliminate the entire tuition process all together.

    “This is a big issue that I will be battling to get our money back," Walker said. "It just isn’t fair that they are taking our money."

    The Sussex County Technical School is one of 21 vo-tech schools in the state, with one in each county. In September of 2011, Sussex County Technical became part of the growing number of vo-tech schools charging tuition. Vernon, Wallkill Valley, and High Point are the most affected by the tuition change.