NJ bill would partly restore school aid by $100M: Critics say 1 time deal not enough
TRENTON – After negotiations, legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy have announced a bill that would try and bridge the gap for school districts that faced massive cuts in aid for the upcoming year.
School districts in line for a reduction in school aid in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget would be able to request an additional amount of aid, under the measure unveiled early Friday evening.
Those one-time requests would be capped at 66% of the difference — between the amount the district received in the 2022-2023 school year and the amount of aid currently proposed for the 2023-2024 school year.
The legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, Senator Andrew Zwicker and Assemblyman Roy Freiman, all Democrats, would make over $100 million available to eligible districts.
That's beyond $20 million in Stabilization Aid for districts that would lose funding under the state formula, already within the proposed state budget outlined by Murphy.
How NJ districts get partial restoration of school aid, under the bill
All eligible districts that submit a request to the state Commissioner of Education would receive the additional funding for the upcoming year, according to Murphy, as long as they include a written plan for funding operations in future years, when the one-time aid was no longer available.
Reduction in state school aid has been a result of the S-2 funding formula, signed into law in 2018.
Brick Township Schools Superintendent Tom Farrell has called the state's school funding formula flawed, saying "It's unfair, and it's not equitable; and more important than that, there's a paradox and a contradiction in the way the formula is delivered and implemented. And unfortunately, many districts find out the hard way."
GOP Senator Oroho: We support partial restoration of funds but want bigger change
Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho issued a quick response to the announced legislation.
“Senate Republicans continue to believe that there is no reason for the Murphy administration to cut funding to any school district when the state has a massive $10 billion budget surplus,” Oroho said on Friday evening.
“We support the partial restoration of funding that has been proposed but remain concerned that it is a one-year solution to a long-term problem,” Oroho continued.
“Unless we change the school funding formula permanently, school districts will lose the temporarily restored money next year and face even deeper cuts in state aid.”
Bill sponsor says of school aid cuts 'Now is not the time for more uncertainty'
In a joint statement with the governor’s office, Gopal said “Our schools have come under tremendous pressures over the past three years due to the pandemic, ranging from uncertainty about resources, learning recovery and a growing teacher shortage."
He continued “Now is not the time for more uncertainty, nor the time for districts to be asked to do with less at the precise moment they are trying to recover some sense of normalcy.”
While the state budget recently proposed by the governor calls for $20.5 billion in education spending, some districts stand to lose up to half their previous state aid amount, as seen below.