Forum Brings Focus To Plan Providing Full Funding To All NJ School Districts
Franklinville – 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 Franklin schools and the many other communities that are underfunded by the current school aid formula.
Franklin is funded at only 84 percent of the formula and receives no adjustment aid. It would receive an additional $1.9 million in aid under Senator Sweeney’s plan by bringing the district to 100 percent of the formula. The district would gain $200,000 for at-risk students by removing the growth cap and $1.7 million to reach full funding.
“We need a school funding plan that makes use of the school funding law but corrects the mistakes that undermined its effectiveness,” said Senator Sweeney. “We need to correct the mistakes of the past that created a system that is unbalanced and unfair and provide full funding for all the school districts in New Jersey. There are too many communities like Franklin that are being shortchanged while other districts get overfunded. We need a plan to restore fairness and equity and doesn’t put upward pressure on local property taxes.”
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.
“Senate President Sweeney’s plan will be effective in advancing educational opportunity because it takes all the school funding issues into consideration and addresses the needs of the districts, the schools and the students,” said Troy Walton, the Franklin Superintendent. “It is practical and comprehensive. It is what we need in our communities to provide the best for our students.”
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.
The Governor’s plan would further cut Franklin’s school funding, bringing it down to 82 percent of the aid it would receive if fully funded and if the growth cap were removed.
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.
Also invited to participate in today’s forum were Troy Walton, Franklin Superintendent; Stephanie Star, Franklin School Board President; Elizabeth DiPietro, Franklin School Business Administrator/School Board Secretary; Michelle Isner, Franklin School Board Vice President; Franklin School Board Members Mary Kientz, Michele Cunningham, Dawn Gelsi-Collins, Barbara Ciancaglini, Nick DeSilvio, and Desiree Miller; Jaime Doldan, Supervisor of C&I; Barbara Dobzanski, Supervisor of Special Services; Henry Kobik, Mary F. Janvier School Principal; Amy Morley, Main Road School Principal; and Theodore Peters, Caroline L. Reutter School Principal.