Sweeney Holds School Funding Forum In National Park

National Park – Senate President Steve Sweeney joined with local officials, educators and others tonight in a community 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 schools in the National Park School System, as well as the many other communities that are underfunded by the current school aid formula.

“National Park students, teachers and administrators are in the same unfair boat as so many other districts in New Jersey, forced to make due with underfunding by a system that allocates aid in a disproportionate way,” said Senator Sweeney. “It’s time to fix school funding in New Jersey so places like National Park are fully funded with their fair share of state aid. They can’t afford to wait another year.”

National Park receives $2.1 million, which is only 80 percent of the state formula and would receive an additional $510 thousand in aid if fully funded with adjustment aid and the growth cap removed. National Park students attend local district schools for pre-k through sixth grade and then attend nearby Gateway Regional for grades seven through twelve. Gateway Regional receives $7.5 million, which is only 70 percent of the state formula and would receive an additional $3.2 million in aid if fully funded.

National Park Councilman James Butler echoed the Senate President in urging swift action to restore equity to the funding formula.

“Every year districts like National Park are forced to make due with less aid than they are entitled to, is another year our tax payers must pick up the slack,” said Butler. “I want to thank Senator Sweeney for stepping up and delivering real action to fix this problem for our residents and millions more like them across New Jersey.”

Senator Sweeney, other legislators, educators, advocacy groups and local officials have identified two add-ons to the state’s school funding formula as “fatal flaws” that cause a lopsided distribution of aid.

The school funding law of 2008 was altered to include provisions that have prevented districts with increased student enrollment from receiving fair compensation at the same time other school systems are over compensated with so-called “hold harmless” aid that gives them money for students they don’t have.

The two add-ons were intended to be temporary but continue to be funded eight years later, exacerbating a disparity that leaves some districts with as little as 40 percent funding while others get 140 percent or more of the formula aid.
Senator Sweeney is also advocating for an increase in state support of $100 million a year for five years.

In addition to the $500 million in increased aid, the more than $600 million in adjustment aid that is now overfunding some districts would be reallocated. 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 Senate created a special bipartisan committee to examine the state’s school funding system and to make recommended reforms. The study committee is also assessing 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.