NEW JERSEY – Long a source of controversy about the equitable and fair distribution of state school aid, New Jersey’s School Funding Formula will be subjected to scrutiny by a task force established by bipartisan legislation advanced by the Senate Wednesday.
Senator Steve Oroho, the Republican Budget Officer and long-time advocate for school funding reform, sponsors the bill (S-3617) to launch the School Funding Formula Evaluation Task Force.
“The funding double standard resulting from the misguided School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) has been a failure,” Oroho said. “Too many schools, especially in rural and suburban areas, are missing out on the money they deserve. While certain districts have seen an ever-increasing flow of state aid, some districts have been subjected to millions of dollars of annual cuts, forcing layoffs of teachers and staff and reductions in educational services for students.”
Under the bill, the duty of the task force is to study the effectiveness of the SFRA and provide recommendations on potential improvements. The group will be directed to take a close look at how school district adequacy budgets and local shares are determined; the methodology of measuring and weighting at-risk students with limited English proficiency; and the weights applied to students in varying grade levels, as well as those applied to students enrolled in county vocational districts; and a multitude of other factors and considerations.
“The funding formula is controlling the purse strings for school aid from the state,” Oroho said. “If there are design flaws in the formula, there will be problems with the funding. This is a crucial step toward addressing the way New Jersey taxpayer money is used for education.
“We need to ensure the interests of all students in the state, and all taxpayers in the state are fairly represented,” Oroho said.
In Oroho’s 24th Legislative District, 30 of 38 school districts lost funding in the FY 2022 budget. The District has a combined loss of $7 million, a 5 percent reduction that follows a $10.5 million loss the previous year. Since Murphy’s term in office, Trenton has swiped $25 million from LD-24 schools.
In 2019, Senate Republicans released their “Every Child Counts” plan, which attempted to fix many of the inequities in SFRA. The plan, among other things, proposed fully funding extraordinary special education, making sure PILOT payments are appropriately calculated, eliminating the Geographic Cost Adjustment, and shifting other various weights and calculations to increase equity, improve education and lower property taxes.