Assemblyman Ryan Peters announced plans to introduce legislation aimed at modernizing state school funding to make it more equitable for every school district in New Jersey.
The Support All Schools Commission Act would task a bipartisan, 26-member commission to deliver an expansive report to be used to update the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. The commission would be comprised of stakeholders from all walks of education and school finance.
“Last year, Trenton made a decision to redistribute funding to school districts, creating winners and losers and putting our school children in the crosshairs. While some schools are finally getting the funding they deserve, others are being left out in the cold, staring at a future where they’ll have to undergo massive layoffs and cuts in programs,” said Peters who voted against the funding cuts.
“Since that decision was made, I’ve met with school administrators, teachers, parents and students in my office and throughout my district, and they are all terrified about what cutting millions of dollars of funding will mean to the future of their schools,” continued Peters (R-Burlington).
“We currently have a system where nearly half of all state aid goes to only 5 percent of school districts. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve taken a serious look at how we fund our schools. We owe it to residents to open the process back up to make sure school funding is being distributed equitably in this state.”
The Support All Schools Commission will have one year from the time it is formed to deliver a public report to the governor and legislature that can be used as the basis of a new school funding formula.
The governor and Senate and Assembly leaders will appoint members from various teacher organizations, schools administrator associations, school business officials and parent groups. The members will be charged with looking at education through a lens of many topics, including special education, the ability of districts to raise money through taxes, transportation costs and more.
“The Support Our Students Advocacy Group (SOS), consisting of 75 school districts statewide, applauds Assemblyman Peters for his interest and concern in seeing that all school districts in the state of New Jersey are receiving a sufficient level of funding to ensure all students continue to receive the quality education that they deserve and are entitled to in accordance with the state’s mandate for a thorough and efficient education,” said Southampton Township Superintendent Michael Harris, one of the founding members of the SOS group.
“The bill being introduced by Assemblyman Peters is a vital step that is needed to review the funding formula and provide recommendations that will ultimately lead to educational funding that treats every student as a precious resource worthy of our best effort and investment,” he continued.
The Southampton School District will lose 50 percent of its state aid when the seven-year phase in of aid reductions is complete. School districts in the 8th Legislative District such as Pemberton, Lenape Regional and Evesham will lose $23.7 million, $7.2 million and $8 million, respectively. Districts across the state have warned of massive layoffs and severe program cuts during the final years of the phase in when reductions in aid are at their highest.
“SOS fully supports funding increases to underfunded districts. However, we are concerned that the process of fixing this long-standing problem threatens to harm some students even as it provides urgently needed support to others,” Harris said.
Peters has worked closely with the SOS group in the first year following the state aid reductions. Forming a commission to update the school funding formula is just one of multiple solutions the advocacy group and assemblyman plan to support and push in the coming months.
“Last year, I had the unique opportunity to provide testimony to the Assembly Budget Committee. My testimony was very simple. I did not ask for money, but rather requested that together we fix New Jersey’s flawed funding system for public schools. It is great to see Assemblyman Peters’ proposed legislation. It is also wonderful to see a legislator attempt to bring a wide range of stakeholders to the table in an effort to generate a solution that benefits all NJ Public school children,” said Lumberton Township Superintendent Joseph Langowski.