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Holzapfel, McGuckin & Catalano

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10th District Legislators Tell NJDOE to Stop Fighting Transparency in School Aid Calculations

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Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano (all R-Ocean) said the Murphy administration should stop trying to hide how State funding to school districts is calculated after a ruling yesterday by a Superior Court judge.

Holzapfel, McGuckin, and Catalano said the Murphy administration should stop trying to hide how State funding to school districts is calculated after a ruling yesterday by a Superior Court judge. (SenateNJ.com)

“School districts like Brick and Toms River shouldn’t have to sue the Murphy administration to get a straight answer about why tens of millions of dollars of State aid were cut from their budgets,” said Holzapfel. “The administration kept trying to deflect blame to the school funding formula, but they refused to let anyone see the actual formula or the data they used to determine aid calculations. The NJDOE’s complete and total lack of transparency has fueled the belief that the Murphy administration is hiding politically-motivated reductions in school aid to Republican districts.”

Since the beginning of the Murphy administration, annual State aid to Toms River Schools has been cut from $66,975,394 to $49,724,966.

Similarly, funding for Brick Schools was slashed by almost 20% this year, with a total reduction of 37.9% during Murphy’s first term.

Brick, Toms River, and several other school districts that experienced similar cuts under the Murphy administration banded together to file a lawsuit to force the NJDOE to release the algorithm and data used to calculate State aid to districts.

In January of 2021, a judge ordered the NJDOE to turn over the information so school districts could independently review the aid calculations.

After the districts determined the NJDOE didn’t turn over all of the information as was required under the ruling, they filed a new lawsuit that was resolved yesterday with another court order requiring the release of coding language used to perform funding calculations.

“The NJDOE distributes more than $9 billion a year in education aid to school districts annually, but they don’t want anyone to have the ability to verify that they’re splitting the money fairly,” said McGuckin. “Since school aid reductions are directly tied to property tax increases and cuts in teachers and programs, people have a legitimate interest in knowing their district is getting what it deserves. ”

To address the issue permanently, Holzapfel, McGuckin, and Catalano sponsor legislation that would require the NJDOE to release all of the data and the software program used to calculate school aid. The bill, first introduced in 2020, was reintroduced in the new two-year legislative session that began this month as S-122.

“School districts wouldn’t have to waste taxpayer dollars on lawyers and lawsuits to achieve transparency in school funding if the Murphy administration wasn’t so secretive about everything,” added Catalano. “Since Governor Murphy refuses to be open and honest with taxpayers, our legislation is necessary to shed some light on the dark inner workings of his administration. We’re calling for legislative hearings to get this done before another dollar is wasted on litigation that should be unnecessary.”

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The 10th District Team

Jim Holzapfel

Senator - District 10

Greg McGuckin

Assemblyman - District 10

John Catalano

Assemblyman - District 10

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