Not enough – Murphy’s restoration of NJ school aid falls short
💲 Murphy signs bill adding $100M in supplemental education aid
💲 Democrats rejected GOP efforts to restore 100% funding
💲 Many districts could still face layoffs and program cuts
Gov. Phil Murphy has attempted to throw struggling school districts a lifeline in terms of education aid, but even adding another $103 million in school funding will leave many school systems still scrambling.
Murphy signed legislation Tuesday that provides additional funding to school districts that will see a reduction in aid in Fiscal Year 2024 as a result of the S-2 funding formula. The legislation will make a total of $103,023,579 available to nearly 170 eligible districts.
"This additional funding was introduced in partnership with the Legislature to support our schools in continuing to offer high-quality instruction to students as the state adjusts to incremental changes in the statutorily-established school funding formula each year," Murphy said in a statement, "I look forward to continuing to work alongside educational stakeholders and legislative partners towards our shared goal of ensuring every New Jersey child receives an education that will set them up for a bright future."
When the funding figures were released, many school superintendents in New Jersey were stunned. Dozens of school districts lost at least 25% of their state funding.
Republican lawmakers have suggested the cuts were politically motivated to punish GOP-leaning parts of the state.
At least eight districts in Monmouth and Ocean Counties are among the biggest losers in Murphy's budget, facing cuts of between 27% and 38%.
Toms River Regional Superintendent Michael Citta was prepared for a worse case scenario loss of about $2.8 million dollars from the previous year. Instead, Toms River was told to expect a cut of $14.4 million.
Citta said there was no amount of budget cutting that could make up that deficit. "This isn't a fiscal cliff; this is a fiscal apocalypse," Citta lamented.
Under this new legislation, Toms River and other districts that lost funding can apply to the state for a one-time appropriation equal to up to 66% of the aid lost from the previous year.
In the case of Toms River, that amounts to about $9.5 million.
Still, that leaves a gap of $4.9 million.
The budget presented last week in Toms River included 28 position cuts, mostly through retirement and attrition.
Even with those reductions, the district would still need to restore another $3.8 million. Citta says he is "optimistic that will happen given the given the conversations that are ongoing with state officials."
Before the final vote in Trenton was taken, Republican Sen. Declan O'Scanlon proposed an amendment to restore 100% of the lost funding for all districts using unspent federal COVID monies. That amendment was voted down along party lines.
While the supplemental aid will be welcomed, it comes with a warning that this is a one-time occurrence. Any district applying for the aid must include a written plan indicating how they intend to fund operations in future years when this aid is no longer available.
Bill sponsor Senator Andrew Zwicker promised to work toward a more equitable funding formula moving forward.
"I will continue to work toward a long-term solution for our districts beyond next year and I will be joining my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and the Governor to do just that in the months ahead," Zwicker said in a statement.
The current school funding formula was crafted by democrats and dates back to the Corzine administration. It is only now being fully implemented by Gov. Murphy, resulting in the massive aid cuts many districts are seeing.
Districts listed below are eligible to request supplemental aid, but it is unclear how many will do so.
20 biggest losers in 2024 proposed K-12 aid
Cape May Point — Cape May County
Proposed K-12 aid: $2,027 — Difference: -67%
Wildwood City — Cape May County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,912,821 — Difference: -53%
Riverton — Burlington County
Proposed K-12 aid: $548,200 — Difference: -42%
Ocean Gate Boro — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $382,276 — Difference: -38%
Seaside Heights Boro — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $441,817 — Difference: -33%
Toms River Regional — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $30,978,802 — Difference: -32%
High Bridge Boro — Hunterdon County
Proposed K-12 aid: $750,671 — Difference: -32%
Knowlton Twp — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $337,872 — Difference: -32%
Milford Boro — Hunterdon County
Proposed K-12 aid: $193,255 — Difference: -32%
North Warren Regional — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,240,718 — Difference: -32%
Stafford Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $5,300,798 — Difference: -31%
Colts Neck Twp — Monmouth County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,835,151 — Difference: -30%
Washington Twp — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $803,768 — Difference: -30%
Asbury Park City — Monmouth County
Proposed K-12 aid: $20,702,767 — Difference: -29%
Hopatcong — Sussex County
Proposed K-12 aid: $2,716,165 — Difference: -28%
Jersey City — Hudson County
Proposed K-12 aid: $133,637,556 — Difference: -28%
Washington Twp — Burlington County
Proposed K-12 aid: $147,522 — Difference: -28%
Lacey Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $10,470,890 — Difference: -27%
Lakeland Regional — Passaic County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,746,442 — Difference: -27%
Ocean Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,748,949 — Difference: -27%
How much your school district gets under Murphy's proposed 2024 budget
Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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