Recently, Governor Murphy introduced his proposed budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. In his proposed budget is the continued, relentless pursuit of cuts to over 200 districts, this year totaling $55 million, despite a $10 Billion surplus.
For years, these funding cuts, a direct result of the disastrous S2 legislation, have devastated our schools and left many questioning why the state is not investing more in our children’s futures. When our student’s mental health is in a full-scale public health crisis, it is unacceptable that the state is not providing more funding to districts facing budget shortfalls and in-school support resources to aid our student’s mental health and safety.
If the state wants to make a real investment in our children’s futures, it must take the issue seriously and commit to fully funding our schools. Our students must have access to the resources they need to succeed and educators are given the tools and support they need to foster a safe, secure, and nurturing learning environment.
As Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Gopal had the opportunity to be a strong advocate for our students and teachers. Instead, he introduced Senate Bill 3732 (S3732), which would only provide a one-time, minimal resolution to the extreme funding losses they have faced. He is trying to mislead our residents by suggesting that his minor increase in school funding is enough to support our schools properly. It is not.
My district mate, Kim Eulner, and I are working hard to provide our constituents with the representation they deserve – representation that will make a real difference in their lives and not just give superficial gestures and empty promises accompanied with a photo opp. That’s why we’re advocating for more comprehensive investments in our schools.
Our plan puts financial security for families first and makes sure students get a well-rounded, fully funded education. We will make sure school districts get the resources they need to provide quality education. Plus, we’ll ensure that every additional dollar of education aid reduces the property tax burden on families.
We want to guarantee our students have the best possible education by fixing the broken school aid formula and providing our schools with the necessary resources. We also recognize the importance of investing in our teachers and staff, so they have the necessary support to do their jobs effectively. We know this is the only way to give our students the education they deserve.
The current school funding formula requires a minimum amount of money to be given to school districts to give students a “adequate” education. This amount is made up of state aid and property taxes (the local share). However, the state is expected to come up with the difference between the local share and the funding levels. Our plan would result in nearly $91 million in school funding increases in Legislative District 11.
Under our proposal, property taxes, which disproportionately affect middle-class and low-income families, will take on a smaller share, while income taxes, which are fairer to these families, will take a bigger share. This will provide significant tax relief and ensure that no student will be negatively impacted by budget cuts. In fact, the average household would see a property tax savings of more than $800 in the first year of implementation.
A single injection of funding misses the mark to solve the long-term financial issues our schools in LD11 and across the state face. It could even worsen the situation for our students and staff, who are already not receiving sufficient resources. Schools deserve adequate and fair funding to provide the learning environment and resources needed for our children to be successful.
Not only will our proposal lower property taxes and make education more affordable and of better quality. It will also fix the unfair school funding formula that has failed our schools. It also won’t cost taxpayers more money or require funding from the surplus. In these difficult times, no school should face funding cuts. And with our plan, no school will.
During the last voting session, I spoke of this failure on the floor of the General Assembly. Despite my impassioned plea, the Democrats shamefully tabled my motion to fully fund our schools. This is a major insult to our constituents, who were expecting the legislature to take action and support our children.
S3732, while a passable start, is not enough to compensate for our schools’ lost money. It is only a $100 million patch for a much larger issue. We supported the bill because getting back some of the lost funds is better than nothing, but it is an insult to our teachers and students that we cannot provide them with all the money they need.
Our mission is to help our students, teachers, and staff succeed in and out of the classroom. We will continue to advocate for equitable and adequate funding from the state to ensure our students have the tools to reach their full potential. Through the collaboration of passionate parents, school districts, and other stakeholders, we are committed to ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to receive a high-quality education regardless of their zip code.