The Senate on Tuesday acted to create the Select Committee on School Funding Fairness to review the current school aid system that has become increasingly lopsided, underfunding a growing number of school districts in New Jersey and forcing 200 communities to increase taxes on their residents to compensate for the shortfall, essentially subsidizing other districts that receive more than their fair share.
The Senate voted in support of Senate President Sweeney’s resolution, SR-100, creating the 8-member committee to review current state school aid practices and to recommend reforms. Senator Sweeney will chair the panel and will appoint four Democrats and four Republicans from the Senate.
“A large number of school districts are being shortchanged in state school aid, forcing local taxpayers to make up the difference,” Senator Sweeney said. “These communities are essentially subsidizing other districts that are receiving more than their fair share. This disparity is undermining equal educational opportunities and adding a financial burden with higher taxes. The lopsided funding is causing the educational system to become unequal and unfair.”
Municipal officials and community residents have echoed the concerns expressed by school superintendents, school board members, education groups and legislators who have expressed their concerns about the impact on local financing and educational opportunity of a funding system that fails to meet the objectives of the school funding formula that was enacted in 2008.
“The original school funding law was constitutional, it was fair and it was equitable,” said Senator Sweeney, referring to the School Funding Reform Act. “But the changes made by the Legislature and the failure of the administration to fully fund the law have created a formula that is lopsided and unfair. The underfunded districts are forced to raise more money in local taxes to make up the difference which means they are essentially subsidizing the overfunded districts.”
“State aid was supposed to be distributed based on a formula that took into account each town’s property tax base, its ability to pay, changes in enrollment and the special needs of the children,” said Senator Sweeney. “But the state broke its promise by failing to properly fund the formula and meet the changing needs of school districts. It is creating a structural problem in school funding and taxation that will only grow worse if it isn’t addressed.”
The Senate President said the Select Committee would build upon the school funding policy analysis that has been underway for the past eight months to propose school funding amounts for each district. He said the plans would include the addition of $100 million in state school formula aid to increase funding for underfunded districts. His goal is to provide full funding for every school district in the state.-------------
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