Thursday, June 9, 2016

More reporting on Sweeney's aid bill

"The school funding reform act never envisioned that New Jersey's school aid formula would be set in stone. We didn't anticipate that school aid would fail to grow sufficiently to meet future needs. But that's exactly what happened," he said during a Statehouse news conference. "As a result, New Jersey's school aid funding has grown less fair and less adequate year after year."

-Steve Sweeney, quoted in the  Burlington Times.

“This is not an urban-suburban issue. There are disparities all over the state, including within my own legislative district where some school districts are overfunded and some are underfunded.
“State aid was to be distributed fairly and equitably based on a formula that took into account each town’s property tax base, its ability to pay, increases and decreases in enrollment and the special needs of the children.”
-Steve Sweeney, quoted in PolitickerNJ
We have some school districts that are receiving three times the amount of aid than they should be and some towns receiving one-third of the aid that they should be. This means some towns are paying 50 percent more in property taxes than they should be and some are paying 50 percent less,” 
-Steve Sweeney, quoted in NJTV
“It has caused a massive disconnect in how schools are actually functioning and how they’re funded. The state continues to distribute more than half a billion dollars in hold harmless aid more than eight years after the School Reform Act from 2008"
- Assemblywoman Joann Downey, quoted in NJTV
Is the Education Law Center in support of Sweeney's plan or against it?  I can't tell based on the following from the Asbury Park Press:
...the Education Law Center said the state doesn’t need a new commission or another year to begin the process.
“We again call on legislators to start the phase-in to full funding without further delay by providing a significant down-payment towards that goal in the FY17 State Budget,” Law Center executive director David Sciarra said.
Reform superintendent Ken Greene praises the approach:

This is a big issue. We are receiving for next year 56 percent of the state aid that we’re due and yet our local tax effort is 44 percent above the local fair share. So our community has had to compensate where other communities are being overfunded. I think that’s the central issue, 
-Dr. Ken Greene, quoted on NJTV

At least a few Republicans are in support:

“The Legislature should decide rather than the courts. Instead of fully funding a broken formula, we should fix it by making it fair and more equal.”

-Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick

Sweeney has never singled out a district as one that is overaided. The closest he has come is this where he anticipates an argument against redistribution from overaided districts:

“We need to commit roughly $100 million a year over the next five years so what happens is, you’re going to see — it’s like a scale some are going to come down some are going to come up but eventually you come to level. And the goal is to 100 percent funding formula. I don’t think any organization can make an argument that it’s unfair to be at 100 percent” (my emphasis)
Others (like me) aren't so circumspect by singling out aid hoarders:

"Tax dollars from hardworking families in Burlington County are going to subsidize school districts and property taxes of homeowners in Hoboken, Jersey City, Asbury Park and elsewhere, even as our kids sit in classrooms in underfunded schools. This defies logic and must stop."

Burlington County Freeholder Mary Ann O'Brien, quoted in the Burlington County Times

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