The bill, which aims to review how the state’s K-12 schools are funded, was approved by the Senate on Monday and is on track for the Assembly to vote.
The bill, if passed, will create a task force of experts tasked with revising the School Funding Reform Act 2008 SFRA, which determines how much money is allocated annually to school districts.
The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate. Senator Stephen Oroha, his Republican sponsor representing cities in Morris, Warren and Sussex counties, wants to return aid to suburban and rural areas that lost it in previous years.
His Democratic sponsor from South Jersey, Senator Vin Gopal, said he wanted to bring transparency to the school’s funding process and make a “fundamental reassessment” of how it works for New Jersey.
One such basis is how the local equity share is calculated, or the district’s contribution to school funding. New Jersey relies in part on aggregate income, which can be unfair to rural areas, those without residential facilities and some suburbs of Philadelphia, said Jeffrey Bennett, a freelance researcher and blogger studying the school funding formula. Using aggregate local income would make sense if districts collected local income taxes, he said.
“My biggest concern is that the elected officials have said nothing about reforming the local equity formula. It is very unusual and creates injustice, ”he said.
“The bill will bring transparency to the formula, and that’s what we would ask the task force to do – help answer all the questions. I don’t think it’s enough to just say it’s property,” said Gopal, who said it would be open. revise the equity formula.
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Proponents agree that revising the formula is good.
“We see the need for this work. The formula has been in place for a long time without a systematic review of all its components, so we are definitely in favor of it, ”said Daniel Farry, research director at the Legal Center for Education, although she said she hoped the task force would be filled with experts. strive to improve rather than change completely.
Another priority for bill sponsors is capital. The focus will be on English-speaking students and children in need of special education.
Since the introduction of the formula 13 years ago, the country has undergone significant demographic changes. Reviewing this in terms of fairness seems to be another incentive to revise the formula.
“In many of my districts, our poverty rate has risen, the number of free and reduced lunches has increased, so I would like to look at the input from the 2020 census to make sure all aspects of the formula are applied properly,” said Gopal, a representative of Monmouth County. .
Six Jersey Shore counties filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Education in January for failing to provide them with codes and formulas used to determine how state aid is distributed. The judge ruled in their favor and ordered the state to provide funding data and formula codes that determine how assistance is provided to 600 state school districts.
Gopal, which includes one of the school districts (regional Freehold), said it was a “fair question”.
Bennett, a researcher, said the two factors with 9 decimal points used in calculating the local equity formula lie in the “core” of the lawsuit filed by the six counties. The Department of Education does not explain where these hard numbers come from in the formula.
The amount of funding a school district should receive is calculated based on the cost per student – the calculation is based on many factors related to the individual needs of students. This total is divided between state and local revenues depending on the district’s ability to raise taxes at the local level. The state is required to make up the difference.
In fact, he has never provided full state aid under the law, said Fari of the Center for Education Law.
Contributing to this article is staff writer Katie Sobko
Mary Ann Corut covers education for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about New Jersey schools and how it affects your children, sign up or activate your digital account today.