Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (R-Monmouth) today criticized Governor Murphy’s proposed school funding cuts, highlighting the exclusion of previously agreed upon special education increases.
Sen. O’Scanlon, Asw. DiMaso and Asm. Scharfenberger said Gov. Murphy’s proposed school funding cuts will do harm to educational quality and overburdened taxpayers. (Pixabay)
Those districts receiving cuts would lose approximately $158 million in aid under the proposed numbers.
Bill S-2, passed in 2018, phases in state aid adjustments to account for student population changes, and other factors, accumulated over a number of years. While some districts gain, others lose. District 13 legislators successfully argued for changes to the legislation to ameliorate the reductions. Their efforts have continued as S-2 has been implemented. They were critical proponents of an agreement with legislative leadership to phase in an additional $200 million in extraordinary special education aid which would help many districts cope with formula aid cuts. The Governor’s proposal excludes funding for that key agreement.
“While we understand the dynamics at work here, the fact that for many years these districts were provided with aid levels that they built into their overall operations and took into account when they crafted contracts makes unwinding these cuts extremely difficult,” said Senator O’Scanlon. “Some of our districts are facing multi-millions in cuts to budgets that have evolved over many years. The potential harm to educational quality, and to taxpayers, isn’t theoretical – it’s happening right now. We’re doing all we can and making every argument to blunt the aid cuts. Full funding of the State’s obligation toward extraordinary special education was a critical component of those efforts. The Governor’s failure to include this year’s additional $50 million is a slap in the face to our children and our taxpayers. We are already fighting for those dollars to be included in the final budget sent to the Governor.”
Many school districts within Monmouth County have experienced an increase in special education costs while the state has failed to meet its statutory funding obligation. Conversations with local school officials highlighted special education as one of their most pressing budgetary strains and concerns.
“Our towns are losing $9.3 million this year under Governor Murphy’s proposed school aid,” DiMaso continued. “They have to absorb these cuts into their budget somehow and that will be on the backs of taxpayers. Special education costs are skyrocketing in our district and across the state as a whole. Infusing extra aid into special education could help to ameliorate some of these cuts. Further we need to have continued discussions about the way that we allot special education funding. Tying it to a census number doesn’t work, the money should be following the child.”
Governor Murphy did include $50 million in “stabilization” aid in his budget proposal that he indicated was intended to help schools receiving formula aid cuts this coming school year. But providing funding in a budget that won’t be finalized until July wouldn’t help school budgets that must be finalized well before then.
“To suggest that these ongoing proposals of taking funds from our schools, teachers, and students while forcing increased property taxes on our residents is anything other than absurd would be disingenuous,” says Scharfenberger. “These funding cuts hurt our towns in LD13 and all across Monmouth County without so much of a second thought. We strongly urge Governor Murphy and the NJDOE Commissioner to reconsider these disastrous decisions.”
“What the Governor should have done was include the extra $50 million in extraordinary special education in his 2021 budget proposal and indicate the extra $50 million in stabilization aid will be provided this spring – in time to be included in next fall’s school budgets. Our revenues are running well ahead of projections, easily providing enough funds to facilitate this extra, vital aid. Together, this would have been a true $100 million in reasonable, rational aid increase to make a genuine impact in school budget planning and in potential property tax relief,” O’Scanlon concluded.