GOP Primary Flashpoint: Ciattarelli Attacks Prieto’s School Funding Plan

Prieto

A fresh target emerged today in the Republican Primary for Governor: Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32).

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) opened up on Prieto’s school funding proposal, which prioritizes an additional $125 million in state aid to the state’s most underfunded school districts.

“Any policy maker who is talking about increasing K-12 school funding to underfunded districts with no mention of decreasing funding to over-funded districts like Hoboken and Jersey City is pandering,” said Ciattarelli, who poked at Prieto (pictured) earlier this year in a transit program moderated by InsiderNJ. At that forum, the Republican gubernatorial candidate identified his own preference for Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) school funding plan.

“We can no longer ignore the gross inequity of 100 percent state funded pre-K in a select number of districts while the vast majority of New Jerseyans pay for pre-K out of their own pockets,” said the Republican.

Hoboken is overfunded by $7.5 million per year and Jersey City is overfunded by $160 million, the assemblyman noted. Both towns also receive 100 percent state funding for pre-K. As an example of hundreds of districts across the state, Manville is under adequacy by $3 million and doesn’t receive any state pre-K funding.

“More government spending fueled by higher taxes isn’t the solution to every problem in New Jersey,” Ciattarelli said.  “In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  When a $275,000 home in Manville pays more in property taxes than the owner of a $800,000 townhouse in Jersey City . . . When middle class parents pay for their children’s pre-K and Hoboken and Jersey City parents get pre-K for free, we have an injustice of epic proportion.”

NJEA chief Wendell Steinhauer said he supports Prieto’s plan.

“Speaker Prieto gets it,” Steinhauer said. “Politicians in Trenton shouldn’t punish students in some districts to make up for the shortfalls in other districts.”

Ciattarelli said, “Considering that NJEA is supposed to equally represent all teachers, how is the current situation at all fair to Manville teachers when compared to Hoboken teachers?

“Mr. Steinhauer’s comments are a sad commentary and a misrepresentation of the problem,” he added.  “Any plan to reduce aid to overfunded districts will not result in punishing students; it will require local elected officials to make responsible spending decisions that are made by other officials in the vast majority of New Jersey every day.  It would be nice if Mr. Steinhauer’s concerns about fairness extended to suburban teachers, property taxpayers and students.”

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