SWEENEY SPEAKS TO NEED FOR CONTINUED PROGRESS IN SUPPORT OF EDUCATION
Addresses School Aid, K-12 Regionalization & Special Ed Reform In Talk With School Boards Association
Atlantic City – Speaking to a meeting of the New Jersey School Boards Association today, Senate President Steve Sweeney talked about the success of providing a substantial increase in aid for the state’s schools, the expansion of Pre-K and the need to sustain continued progress by pursuing reforms contained in the “Path To Progress” report to regionalize K-12 school districts and have the state assume greater responsibility for funding special education. The recommendations were made by the Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup in its recent report.
“We made real progress by delivering a substantial increase in state school aid, reforming how funding is allocated and expanding Pre-K to more school systems,” Senator Sweeney told the school board members at a Legislative Update meeting. “We need to maintain this progress by making sure we have the resources to continue the increased funding and by following through on recommendations in the ‘Path to Progress’ report calling for regionalization of K-12 school districts and having the state assume funding responsibilities for special education.”
The report by the blue-ribbon panel recommends the consolidation of all K-4, K-5, K-6 and K-8 districts into regional K-12 high school districts, moves that would improve educational quality at the same time that it generates savings, according to education experts serving on the Workgroup.
“We’re not talking about eliminating neighborhood schools,” Senator Sweeney said. “We’re talking about eliminating separate superintendents and school business administrators for a lot of one-schoolhouse districts. The cost of education is about 17 percent higher per pupil in the bottom quintile of school districts with fewer than 500 students than it is in the three largest quintiles with 1,000 students or more.”
The state should eventually take over the costs of special education, starting with Extraordinary Special Education Aid, the report also advises.
“It would cost another $140 million a year for the state to pay the full 85 percent of Extraordinary Special Education Aid that the state is supposed to be funding and another $60 million to cover the local share that school districts are supposed to pay,” said Senator Sweeney. “This can be a disproportionate burden for local districts that the state should be assuming.”
Senator Sweeney also discussed other reforms, including permitting the establishment of two countywide school district pilot programs and reform the hearing process for special education placements and disputes by appointing Office of Administrative Law judges with experience in special education who would hear only special education cases within the 60-day timeline.
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