The city’s school district could see an additional $4.8 million in state education funding under an agreement reached late last week by New Jersey senate president Stephen Sweeney and assembly speaker Vincent Prieto.
Sweeney and Prieto’s agreement includes $146 million in school aid to underfunded school districts and $25 million for pre-school expansion in the state. $100 million is new school aid and $46 million is reallocated funds from districts receiving 100-percent or more of their fair share of school dollars based on the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. The agreement caps funding cuts to affected districts to no more than 1.5-percent of their budget.
The plan has to receive support from governor Chris Christie before becoming reality.
“This agreement is a landmark first step toward restoring fairness to the School Funding Reform Act for schoolchildren and taxpayers, and ensuring that every student receives the ‘thorough and efficient education’ promised by the Constitution regardless of where he or she lives,” Sweeney said. “This is a win for the parents and children in districts like Kingsway and Chesterfield, Paterson and Bayonne that have been grappling with staff and program cuts because of the state’s failure to provide the state aid it should.”
Paterson has had to make drastic budget cuts over the years due to state flat funding. Just this year, the school board adopted a budget that will eliminate 208 positions including 96 teachers. It also cut courtesy busing getting rid of transportation for 690 students.
By dollar figures, the biggest winners in the plan are Elizabeth, Newark, and Atlantic City. Elizabeth and Newark will each receive $7.5 million in additional school aid. Atlantic City will get $6 million more for its schools, according to the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services.
The biggest loser is Jersey City which will lose $8.5 million in school aid. Toms River Regional and East Orange each look to lose more than $3 million.
“This is the type of compromise the Assembly was looking for – one that does not hurt children while providing immediate relief to the most troubled school districts, beginning the work of fairly adjusting school aid and making a major investment in preschool education,” Prieto said.
The agreement follows months of hearings before Senate and Assembly committees over education funding in the state. The agreement revamps funding for 2017-2018 school year. It’s the first time since the 2008 education funding law was passed that adjustment aid will be reallocated from school districts receiving more than 100-percent of state aid to underfunded districts. It also marks the first time aid is being apportioned based on each district’s full enrollment growth without the growth cap.
“I am pleased that the agreement reached today lends itself to a more equitable approach to funding school districts,” Maria Teresa Ruiz, Senate education committee chairwoman, said.
“This agreement, based on the input we heard from experts and parents from throughout the state, protects children, provides help where most desperately needed and, with expanded preschool, sets the stage for a brighter future for so many of our children.” Marlene Caride, Assembly education chairwoman, said.