TRENTON, N.J. — The seemingly never-ending debate over New Jersey’s school funding formula — more responsible than any other factor for ever-higher suburban property tax rates — took another turn on Monday as the NJGOP Senate caucus announced its own plan to reform how the state allots state aid to school districts.
It’s timing is designed to serve as a counterpoint ahead of Phil Murphy’s Tuesday budget address which is expected to include more proposed changes to how the state funds its public schools.
Republicans are calling it the “Every Child Counts” school funding reform plan, and Republican leaders say it’s not only fairer to everyone but also represents a real boon for special education and anyone tired of districts which “game” the existing funding formula to artificially inflate their state aid.
“The school funding reforms announced by Senate Republicans today will lower property taxes, improve the quality of education in our classrooms, and protect our most vulnerable children in every corner of New Jersey,” said Kean. “We believe our plan builds and improves upon previous reforms, while addressing lingering concerns raised by both Republicans and Democrats. These are important next steps to improve how we support the students in our classrooms that should have bipartisan support.”
Some towns would see dramatic increases like the Camden County borough of Haddonfield (which would see a 195.4% state aid jump). Other towns would see big decreases like the Morris County outpost of Rockaway where aid could tumble -26.8%. Most would see little change including Asbury Park where aid would drop, but in the iconic Jersey Shore resort’s case only -0.1%.
The Republican legislators had company at their state house announcement press conference including superintendents and officials from Freehold Regional, Little Silver, Middletown, Passaic Valley Regional, Pequannock, and Totowa.
“One of the reasons school funding has become such a challenging issue is that we repeatedly have strayed from following the formula,” said Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), one of the GOP senators in attendance. “In response to budgetary challenges in prior years, we’ve seen instances where aid was held flat for everyone, or aid was increased or decreased by a certain percentage across the board. Those arbitrary changes didn’t account for the changing needs of individual districts from year to year. Over time, larger and larger inequities crept into funding allocations.”
“The constitutional amendment that we’ve proposed as part of our plan would require the statutory school funding formula to be followed every year, even if it needs to be prorated after being run to account for available funding,” O’Scanlon added. “This will ensure that the changing needs of school districts are consistently accounted for every year, while preventing deviations from growing as they had under SFRA.”