HomeMarlton News'The better our schools are, the better our town is'

‘The better our schools are, the better our town is’

Evesham Education Foundation wants to lessen sting of district's state aid cuts

Courtesy of Spinn Photography
Evesham Education Foundation members are shown at their annual Double Down for Evesham Education fundraiser in February.

The Evesham Education Foundation is encouraging residents to support local students through donations or attendance at its upcoming fundraisers to benefit the Evesham school district.

The district approved its tentative budget in March, its seventh year of state-aid reductions. Lawmakers approved a bill in 2018 called S2 that modifies school funding law to eliminate adjustment aid and decrease state-aid growth. The bill was designed to shift aid from historically overfunded districts to historically underfunded ones.

Evesham Township is an S2 district, which is the case for roughly one third of school systems in the state. The district has seen a $505,300 cut in state aid for the 2024-’25 school year. If 2025-’26 aid is flat – and the cost of operations increases again next school year – the district would have to cut $1.1 million to balance its budget.

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The first six years of state-aid reduction did not result in cuts to educational programs, an accomplishment Superintendent Dr. Justin Smith said he viewed as “a semi-miracle” in an interview with The Sun earlier this year.

”I wouldn’t have predicted that at the start of that process,” he explained. “The reason I say that is because we steer by our mission of serving students in all we do, including the development of our budget. We’ve staved off cutting any programs as long as we could, which got us to this point now.”

The state assembly approved a bill on April 15 that will help school districts who’ve seen cuts in state aid by extending one-time grants and allowing them to hike local taxes above the state-mandated 2% cap without voter approval. The bill was approved in a 51-20 vote almost entirely along party lines.

The legislation would also allow districts that have seen cuts since the 2020-’21 school year to raise levies by up to 9.9%, with hikes capped to the amount of state aid lost over that period.

Meanwhile, the Evesham Education Foundation’s annual Larry Kull Memorial Golf Outing on June 3 is expected to offset some of the state-aid loss in the district’s budget. The foundation was formed in 1995 by a group of parents and local business leaders to support excellence in education with fundraising. The nonprofit is independent and non-political and works to enhance the academic experience for Evesham students.

The foundation also has programs for students from pre-K to seventh grade that are age specific and help them gain fundamental skills. The group has raised more than $3 million since its inception, with beneficiaries that have included the school district’s CAPPS (Coordinated Arts Program for Primary Students), its Metamorphosis Summer Enrichment and Outside Counseling programs, the summer literacy program and programs for tier-3 talented and gifted students.

The nonprofit has also raised funds for technology, science and the arts, and scholarships and athletic uniforms for Evesham schools. Foundation President Bill Smitheman Jr. explained how the funding process between the nonprofit and the district works.

“Annually, the school district will submit to us paperwork for the specific programs that we fund,” he said. “They provide us certain information about the number of students that are part of the program and the cost of the program. In case (the district) is looking to make any changes, they would identify that (to the foundation). That way we can understand the circumstances of what we’re funding.

“(The foundation) would then take that information, and (we discuss) the district’s request … as a board,” Smitheman added. “Then we vote on it for that particular school year or summer.”

He also pointed out that the foundation is actively fundraising to preserve the district’s Tier III Enrichment Extensions, a district-wide summer enrichment program for identified Tier III students. Its purpose is to bring together gifted and talented students from across the district in order to provide enrichment course offerings.

The program is held daily during the month of July and includes a.m. and p.m. sessions in two-week increments. Courses are designed around 21st Century Life and Career Standards and integrate STEM or humanities. There will be a raffle at this year’s golf outing to help fund the program.

The foundation is also seeking donations to offset the school district’s state aid loss and maintain Evesham’s academic status.

“My goal going forward is to express to people to think local with their donations,” Smithemen observed. “We have a lot of circumstances that we can resolve here in town if we can get more people to look locally and support our foundation so we can help solve some of these budgeting issues within the schools.

“The better our schools are, the better our town is,” he continued. “That’s really the big thing. People move to Marlton because of the school districts, so we want to keep that going strong.”

Sponsorships of $500 to $10,000 are available for the golf event. Individual play
spots are $350, with a foursome at $1,300. To donate or become a sponsor, visit the foundation’s website at www.eveshameducationfoundation.org or contact Smitheman at (609) 314-5617.

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