Sweeney & Burzichelli Hold Roundtable on SFRA School Funding Plan in Paulsboro
Paulsboro – Senate President Steve Sweeney joined with local officials, educators and others today in a roundtable discussion on the School Funding Reform Act that will provide full funding to all school districts in New Jersey, a plan that will deliver a boost for the Paulsboro schools and the many other communities that are underfunded by the current school aid formula.
The Paulsboro School District is funded at only 84 percent of the formula, receives no adjustment aid. It would receive an additional $2.7 million in aid under Senator Sweeney’s plan by bringing the district to 100 percent of the formula.
“We know that a quality education is the most powerful tool we can give to our children to put them on a path for future success,” said Senator Sweeney. “The plan we have created to fully fund all of our school districts eliminates the greatest hurdle towards equality – it removes politics from the process and sticks to what should have been our top educational priority all along, running the formula and funding it.”
“We need to bring full funding to all our schools so that all our students have the opportunity for a quality education and the plan already approved by the Senate will get that done,” said Assemblyman Burzichelli. “Fair funding is full funding and equal opportunity should be our priority.”
Also participating in today’s forum were Mayor Gary Stevenson; John Giovannitti, Borough Council President & Paulsboro Schools Director of Special Services; Thomas Ridinger, School Board President; School Board Members Joseph Lisa and Irma Stevenson; Dr. Laurie Bandlow, Superintendent; Jennifer Johnson, Business Administrator; Paul Morina, Principal, Paulsboro High School, and local parents.
Under the Senate-approved bill, a 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. The school funding formula should be reviewed every two years, according to the legislation.
The Senate voted 29 – 6 to create a special commission that would develop a plan to provide full funding for all New Jersey schools, reforming a system that currently underfunds 80 percent of the state’s school districts. Sponsored by Senator Sweeney and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, the bill, SCR-119, would have the Senate and Assembly work together to create a six-member “State School Funding Aid Fairness Commission” to develop a five-year plan to fully fund the education formula with annual increases of $100 million.
In addition to the $500 million in increased aid, the $680 million in adjustment aid that is now overfunding some districts would be reallocated to bring all districts to full funding. This redistribution of “hold harmless” adjustment aid to underfunded school districts will help to eliminate the enrollment growth cap that discriminates against growing school districts in both cities and suburbs.
In contrast, Paulsboro would lose $5.2 million under the governor’s funding plan, which would leave the district at only 47 percent of the funding it should receive under SFRA without a growth cap.
The commission will also assess the impact of tax growth on the ability of school districts to fund their schools, evaluate special education services, look at per-pupil administrative costs, the fairness of the current equalized valuation and income measure, and the impact of property tax abatements. It will also look for recommendations to lower property taxes.