Legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho (R-Sussex/Warren/Morris) aimed at eliminating a provision in state law that shortchanges rural school districts in state education aid has been approved by the Senate.
The bill, S-1832, eliminates the “geographic aid adjustment” that deprives certain districts of aid dollars based on a faulty assumption that operating costs are lower in rural areas of the state.
“Our school district costs are roughly equal to or more than school districts throughout the state, yet the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) of 2008 adopted by the Corzine Administration penalizes us for a bogus assumption that it is significantly cheaper to educate a child in rural areas,” Oroho said. “As a result, our residents are faced with making up the cost differential via local property taxes. This portion of the law is based on fallacy and needs to be eliminated.”
Oroho detailed several examples of why the geographic aid adjustment is not fair to rural school districts, including: Special education costs and out-of-district placement costs are not dissimilar for all counties; state health benefits must be accounted for; the costs of energy, textbooks, supplies and food service are the same or similar across counties; and transportation costs are exponentially more expensive than for suburban/urban school districts.
“The expectation that it is less expensive to operate a school district in rural communities is a farce, as approximately 90 percent of our budgets are comprised of expenses that are no different than any other district’s,” Oroho noted. “The deck is already stacked against rural districts by the school aid formula, which sends a majority of state dollars to just 31 districts. Reductions based on geography just add insult to injury.”