Paterson Roundtable Brings Focus To School Funding Reform Plan
PATERSON – Joined by local officials and educators, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Nellie Pou conducted a roundtable discussion in Paterson today to focus on the educational and fiscal value of the school funding reform plan authored by Senate Democrats that would bring all the state’s school districts to full funding.
In Paterson, where growth in students has outpaced the school system’s resources, the proposed School Funding Reform Act would provide an additional $36 million in support.
“This forum is part of what will be an ongoing fight to move forward on a plan to reform school funding in New Jersey in a way that improves all the schools in the state and provides equal education opportunity to each and every student,” said Senator Sweeney. “This is a fight for the future of our children that will help shape the type of state we want to have.”
Seeking to remedy a school funding system that has left 80 percent of New Jersey’s school districts underfunded, Senator Sweeney and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, authored legislation, S-2372, to create a special commission to develop a school funding reform plan to bring all districts to full funding within five years, addressing disparities in funding that have developed as a result of the state’s failure to follow the formula.
The bill has already been approved by the Senate committee.
Senator Pou emphasized the benefits of the Sweeney-Ruiz plan for Paterson.
“We should be working for equal education for all of New Jersey’s students and we should support the state’s entire system of education,” said Senator Pou. “The reform plan offered by Senator Sweeney and Senator Ruiz will strive for opportunity for all students. For Paterson, it will mean an additional $36 million.”
The state needs to address the growing disparities in school funding throughout the state, the senators said.
The failure of the state to fund the school formula has shortchanged school districts and has been especially acute in many of New Jersey’s largest school systems, including Paterson.
“The legislation sponsored by Senators Sweeney and Ruiz would get our district back to full funding,” said Senator Pou. “It would help communities like Paterson and give children in our city the hope of getting an education that will prepare them for today’s economy.”
Also participating in the forum were Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, Freeholder Director T.J. Best, Freeholder Sandi Lazzara, Councilman Ken Morris Jr., School Board President Chris Irving, as well as advocates, students and faith-based leaders.
“The state has failed to fund the formula or to keep up with the needs of the individual school districts,” said Senator Sweeney. “As a result, the funding formula has grown less fair and less adequate, with the fastest-growing districts being shortchanged the most, which puts upward pressure on property taxes.”
The commission will put the plan into legislation that will have to be approved or rejected in its existing form with up or down votes by the Legislature.
“We believe this is the first responsible approach to meeting the mission of the school funding formula that aid follows the child and to bring all districts to full funding in a fair and meaningful way,” said Senator Sweeney, who expects the plan to include increased state funding of as much as $100 million annually over the five-year timeframe.
Under the proposed legislation, a four-member “State School Funding Fairness Commission” would be established and given one year to develop a plan that would bring every school district in the state to “adequacy funding” within five years. The Administration would appoint two commissioners and the Senate President and Assembly Speaker would choose one each, according to the bill.
Group Photo (Left to Right): Freeholder Sandi Lazzara, Rev. Kenneth Clayton, School Board Pres. Christopher Irving, Rev. Michael McDuffie, Senate President Sweeney, Paterson Rosa Parks Student Juliana Braka, Freeholder Director T.J. Best, Senator Nellie Pou, Councilman Ken Morris Jr., Paterson Education Fund Director Rosie Grant, Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, Pastor Freddie Carillo and Pastor Roberto Nieves.