Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto today announced that they have reached agreement on a school funding plan that provides $146 million in additional aid to underfunded districts and reallocates Adjustment Aid from districts receiving more than 100 percent of their fair share of full state funding.
According to a release issued jointly, the plan includes $100 million in new school aid for underfunded districts and $46 million in reallocated Adjustment Aid, plus $25 million to expand pre-school education. The agreement reached by the legislative leaders caps Adjustment Aid cuts in affected districts at no more than 1.5 percent of their school budgets.
The leaders met earlier today and agreed to reconvene following a weigh-in by the Office of Legislative Services.
“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,” said Sweeney. “This is a significant reform that lifts the Growth Cap to provide increased aid to fast-growing districts and begins the phase-out of Adjustment Aid from districts that are getting more state aid than they are entitled to receive. 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.”
“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,” said Prieto. “I’m especially pleased to be providing immediate help to districts such as Bayonne and Paterson, and I’m thrilled at the $25 million to expand preschool education, which has been among my top priorities. Expanding preschool education may be the most significant aspect of this agreement, in the big picture, which is why it was so important to me. I’d like to thank Chairman Schaer and Chairwoman Caride for their leadership and guidance on this all-important issue. Their hard work and diligence went a long way toward reaching this agreement.”
The Sweeney-Prieto agreement follows months of hearings by the Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness and the Assembly Education Committee on inequities in the state’s school funding formula. The agreement revamps funding for the 2017-2018 school year, and marks the first time since passage of the SFRA in 2008 that Adjustment Aid will be reallocated from school districts receiving more than 100% of the state aid to which they are entitled under the state aid formula to districts that are underfunded. It also marks the first time that state aid is being apportioned to school districts based on their 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. I am thrilled that we are also providing $25 million to expand preschool education, which is the best investment we can make in the future of our children and our state,” said Senate Education Committee Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). “This is an important first step toward fulfilling the promise of the SFRA to provide universal access to preschool for every child in New Jersey.”
“This was always about what’s best for the children of New Jersey,” said Assembly Education Chairwoman Marlene Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen). “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.”
The school funding plan provides increased funding to school districts that educate over 73 percent of New Jersey public schoolchildren, 78 percent of “at risk” students and 87 percent of English Language Limited students. Increased funding is weighted toward the most underfunded districts.
“This is real reform that will provide fairness and equity to local school districts, their taxpayers and the schoolchildren they serve,” said Senate Budget Committee Chair Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen). “The hearings of our Select Committee on School Funding Fairness and our Senate Budget Committee demonstrated conclusively that state aid has not been distributed fairly. The way we are lifting the Growth Cap and reallocating Adjustment Aid is the blueprint for fair funding in the future.”
“The status quo was no longer acceptable, but with this agreement, we bring help to both taxpayers and school districts most in need,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “This agreement does all the right things – provide immediate help, sets the stage for fair adjustments in the future and invests in our young children by expanding preschool. This is a fair compromise at the right time.”
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