The New Jersey Assembly's Education Committee will convene the first of several hearings on school funding Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The committee will hear from education experts at that meeting and then hold three public hearings across the state, one in each region, New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said in a press release issued Tuesday, Jan. 10.
The hearings come as the Assembly looks to improve the state school funding formula, which was never fully funded, he said.
“Concerns about school funding in communities across the state have gone on far too long without being resolved,” said Prieto, a Democrat representing Hudson and Bergen counties.
“It’s unacceptable that state government has gone years without properly funding a constitutional school funding formula, hurting both children and property taxpayers. It’s time to revisit that process, but we need input and opinions from experts and taxpayers across the state. If this was an easy fix, it would have been done a long time ago, but the Assembly is ready to start the hard work of finding a solution that’s fair to taxpayers, school districts and children across the state.”
More details on the public hearings will be announced shortly, the release stated.
"This is all about the future of children and our state and helping long-struggling taxpayers,” noted Assembly Education Chairwoman Marlene Caride, a Democrat representing Bergen and Passaic counties. "Fair funding for all schools throughout the New Jersey is a must."
Both Sen. Majority Leader Steve Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie have proposed separate plans to revise the manner in which public schools receive funding allocations. Under Sweeney’s proposal, every school district would receive its full state school aid allocated under the current formula. At present some receive more than 100 percent, while others including Egg Harbor Township receive up to 20 percent less.
Egg Harbor Township School District has been receiving a flat amount of $40 million in state aid for the past few years, yet the formula calls a disbursement of almost $67 million per year. If the Sweeney plan is accepted and implemented, the district could receive $27 million more in additional state aid each year, while other districts, such as Linwood, could see a reduction in their aid allocation.
Christie’s “Fairness Formula” proposal calls for a flat amount of $6,599 in aid per pupil, regardless of the economic conditions of the school district. Special education students, who cost more to educate, would be funded separately.
The proposal is a departure from way 31 urban districts are presently funded. These districts, commonly called Abbott school districts, receive more money per pupil than other districts, as mandated by two New Jersey Supreme Court rulings in 1985 and 1990. The Pleasantville School District is one such district.
Under Christie’s proposal, Egg Harbor Township would stand to receive $8 million to $9 million more from the state.
According to the release, groups that invited to testify at the Jan. 18 hearing include the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the Garden State Coalition of Schools, the New Jersey Council of County Vocational Schools, the New Jersey Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, the Education Law Center, Save Our Schools NJ, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey and Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
“We are not predetermining any outcome, but whatever is proposed will be constitutional, involve the elected representatives of the people of New Jersey and fully fund all school districts throughout the state, no matter their location or economic status,” Prieto said. “The status quo is unfair and unacceptable. We all know it, but we can and will do better, and I am fully confident in the Assembly Education Committee’s ability to get this done.”