Newark Forum on School Funding Reform Plan
Sweeney, Ruiz & Rice Join With Baraka, Local Officials & Educators to Discuss Benefits of Senate Plan to Fully Fund NJ Schools
Newark – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Ron Rice joined with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, other local leaders, educators and members of the clergy in a roundtable discussion today to on the educational and fiscal value of the school funding reform plan authored by Senator Sweeney and Senator Ruiz that would bring all the state’s school districts to full funding.
For Newark, the proposed School Funding Reform Act would provide an additional $90 million in support.
“This forum brings a focus on the importance of supporting educational opportunity for all school children in New Jersey,” said Senator Sweeney. “Providing full funding will give the Newark’s schools an additional $90 million, money that is needed to lift the school system and its students. This is a goal that we can achieve.”
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.
“Students in Newark and across the state deserve access to a quality education and that means providing adequate funding for every child. We have a plan that will bring all schools to 100 percent of adequacy, providing districts with the resources they need to give students a strong foundation for academic success,” said Senator Ruiz. “It is a responsible plan that will help to ensure that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century.”
The state needs to address the growing disparities in school funding throughout the state, the senators said.
“The state has failed to fund the formula or to keep up with the needs of the individual school districts,” said Senator Rice. “As a result, the funding formula has grown less fair and less adequate. Newark in particular has been operating with a multi-million-dollar budget deficit year after year. The lack of funding shortchanges students who deserve a high-quality education and the opportunity to compete in the modern-day economy. We have to address the lack of funding in our school districts, and hold the state – which controls the finances in many urban districts – responsible for its actions.”
The failure of the state to fund the school formula has shortchanged school districts and their home communities throughout the state and has been especially acute in many of New Jersey’s largest school systems, including Newark.
Also participating in the forum were Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Newark School Advisory Board, Mildred Crump, President, Newark City Council, Kathleen Nugent, Democrats For Education Reform, Donna Chiera, AFT, Rev. Ronald Slaughter, St. James AME Church, Ceil Zalkind, ACNJ, Debbie Gregory Smith, NAACP Newark, Councilman Anibal Ramos and Lavar Young, BAEO.
“The Newark schools and the teachers and staff who work so hard to provide a quality education need and deserve our support,” said Donna Chiera, President of the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey. “The plan for full funding advanced by Senator Sweeney and Senator Ruiz is what is needed to help close the gap between what Newark is receiving and what it should be receiving. AFTNJ looks forward to working with the Senators on using the additional funding to implement an educational plan that will make a real difference for the schools and communities they serve.”
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. Senator Sweeney said he expected 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.