Spotlight on Sumter as Schools Funding Sparring Unfolds in Trenton

If Ambassador Phil Murphy formally taps Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) for LG, he will have turned to a lawmaker now in a critical behind-the-scenes position on education funding as Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) wars on the subject with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).

Prieto released his plan to compete with Sweeney’s, and a key bullet point notes the need for more school funding for Paterson, Sumter’s hometown. Sumter told InsiderNJ that she spoke to Prieto about schools funding reform as recently as last week, and routinely notes that Paterson schools are underfunded by $200 million.

Sweeney allies are already badmouthing Prieto’s plan as a flagpole shot at best, but Sumter said she likes what she sees, and gently criticized the senate president’s version as “only vignettes.” As the debate unfolds and urban schools seek full funding, she said she’s also concerned about special education and pre-k funding.

Specifically in Paterson where the state overrode the local school board’s rejection of the budget, the assemblywoman says classrooms are overcrowded, some classes lack certified teachers, and morale sags as a consequence of district instability.

Sumter said she discusses schools funding issues with Ambassador Phil Murphy “every chance I get.”

“The ambassador knows that this is a priority for me,” said the Assemblywoman. “I’m not only monitoring the situation, but I am looking forward to being a prime sponsor of funding for the school district.”

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