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Lawmaker: Education funding in NJ needs to change

For more than two decades how New Jersey funds education has been the subject of litigation. Many education advocates accuse Gov. Chris Christie of underfunding schools, but others argue the money being spent isn’t being spent wisely. The ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee thinks it’s time to revisit the issue.

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“We must discuss school funding even if it means challenging or changing the (State) Supreme Court,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank).

The state is spending a record $9 billion on school funding this fiscal year. Christie has repeatedly stated that he has provided more state aid to school districts than any governor in New Jersey’s history. Like Christie, O’Scanlon said he wants the money to be spent efficiently.

“We could take $800 million and set it on fire behind this building (the Statehouse) and serve the children in some of our school districts better than they are now being served – school districts where we’re paying upwards of $28,000 a student in state money and they’re still getting a lousy education,” O’Scanlon said.

For years, Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Washington) has been pushing a bill to establish a new formula for the distribution of state aid to school districts. The bill would provide state aid by determining a per-pupil amount of state aid and multiplying that amount by the school district’s projected resident enrollment for the budget year.

Under Doherty’s measure, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Monroe Township), the per-pupil state aid amount would be determined after the state treasurer projects the total revenue amount from the state income tax for the budget year. The Department of Education would then divide that amount by the total projected resident enrollment of the school districts.

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