NJ’s top Democrats reach compromise to reallocate school funding
TRENTON — Democratic legislative leaders say they’ve reached agreement on changes to how New Jersey funds schools that include $125 million in additional money for the school year that starts in September and reallocating $46 million in aid that had been announced in March.
The deal was announced late Wednesday by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto without Gov. Chris Christie, whose cooperation would be needed to make the changes.
The reallocation of what’s known as "adjustment aid," which will be shifted away from districts that receive more than 100 percent of what’s considered full funding under the 2008 funding formula, will mean some districts will get less aid than what was promised in March. Sweeney said the change “begins the phase-out” of adjustment aid from some districts.
No details were available on which districts lose funds, but Jersey City and Hoboken seem sure to be among them. The deal caps the cuts at no more than 1.5 percent of a district’s school budget.
The $100 million in new school aid and $46 million in reallocated adjustment aid would be a boost to underfunded districts. Sweeney said the agreement lifts a "growth cap" that prevented aid from being increased to fast-growing districts. Democrats say increased funding is weighted toward the districts that are furthest from what would be full funding if the formula was being followed.
Bayonne, Chesterfield, Kingsway Regional and Paterson were among the districts identified in the legislative leaders’ announcement as benefiting from the new aid, but a full list wasn’t available.
The agreement also adds $25 million to expand preschool education, a priority of Prieto. The list of districts that would share the new aid wasn’t made immediately available.
Lawmakers have a district-level analysis of the changes but chose not share it publicly. They said the plan provides increased funding to districts that enroll over 73 percent of the state’s public school students, 78 percent of students considered at-risk and 87 percent of students who speak limited English.
The School Funding Reform Act was approved in 2008 but hasn’t been followed since its first year. However, it was upheld by the state Supreme Court.