NEW JERSEY – Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblyman Hal Wirths Thursday condemned Governor Murphy’s proposed budget for strangling school districts in the 24th District with inadequate education funding even while proposing record high spending in his overall budget.
“Even this year, with the most bloated state budget in our state’s history, the Governor’s funding plan still gives our local school districts short shrift,” Oroho said. “Our schools once again will be crippled by deficient state aid, and property taxpayers in our district will be burdened with higher rates to fill the void. In his budget address on Tuesday, the Governor patted himself on the back for increasing investment in public schools by $700 million, but it is clear the Administration had little regard for sharing that money with many suburban and rural school districts that have consistently been hard hit in each State budget since Murphy took office.”
District 24, which includes towns in Sussex, Warren and Morris Counties, is slated to lose nearly $7 million in State school aid next school year under Governor Murphy’s proposed budget, according to documentation released by the State Department of Education. This comes on the heels of the Murphy Administration slashing funding to school districts by over $10.5 million the previous year, and over $25 million cumulatively since Murphy’s time in office.
“How can Governor Murphy in good conscience ask our property taxpayers to pay even more to make up for these cuts while unemployment is up due to his shutdown, small businesses are permanently closing, and schools need extra money just to be open safely during the pandemic?” Space said. “We have regularly been in contact with our school districts and advocating on their behalf, and we stand with them again in vigorously protesting these latest cuts.”
In his budget address, the Governor claimed to be proposing an increased investment in public schools by $700 million. Murphy gloated that “through this investment, our administration will have come closer to meeting our obligations to our students, educators, and communities through fully funding our school funding formula.”
“Reviewing the aid numbers for schools in our district, it is crystal clear that Trenton is nowhere close to meeting its obligations to the students and residents in this area,” Wirths said. “With the windfall of federal pandemic help and improving revenues contributing to a budget surplus, there is room in the budget plan to adequately fund our schools and help make up the millions of dollars of aid lost in recent years. The reality is our schools are being punished by this Administration because they have the wrong zip codes in the wrong counties.”
In 2018, Oroho, Space and Wirths voted against the changes (S-2) to the school funding formula which resulted in the ensuing aid cuts. The funding cuts to local school districts when the formula change is fully phased in over the next three years will total $40 million less annually.
“We have been sounding the alarm for years about the dire need to fix New Jersey’s terribly flawed school funding formula,” Oroho said. “As I have consistently stated, any funding scenario that formularizes the Abbott mandates which translates into two-thirds of all State aid going to a handful of urban school districts will always be flawed no matter how you run numbers. While I recognize that any formula driven aid will be significantly based on enrollment and school boards must manage for it, the reality is there are so many inherent flaws in the formula working against our local school districts that we come out on the losing end.”
The legislators are encouraging taxpayers, students, school districts, and educational professionals to join with them in opposing these devastating cuts. The legislators have been working closely with school districts since funding changes were initially contemplated in 2017. Fortunately, the District 24 legislators working with then-Governor Christie were able to restore funds that were slated to be taken away by legislative Democrats in the FY ’18 State Budget.
“Since Governor Murphy has taken office, it has been an assault on our school districts in Northwestern New Jersey,” Space said. “The governor likes to talk about ‘tax fairness,’ but there’s nothing fair about taking resources from one school district and giving it to another, increasing the local property tax burden, and not doing anything to cure the underlying problem of a flawed school funding formula.”
“Time and time again, our taxpayers have been asked to pay more out of their own pockets to fund Governor Murphy’s progressive agenda,” Wirths said. “It is completely unfair. Every child should have the same opportunity to get a great education, regardless of where they live. The impact on taxpayers in our towns is inexcusable considering the massive spending increases up and down the governor’s proposed budget. Some of that money could easily be committed to the education of the children in our towns, not funding Murphy’s progressive political priorities.”
The three legislators invite the State education commissioner to come up to the district to explain to local school administrators and concerned parents how they can maintain quality schools and provide mandated programs for students with such steep cuts.