Education

Could More School Aid be Headed to Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge?

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Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge school districts may see a significant increase in state aid in the proposed 2019 state budget. Credits: Faith C. Ballantine-Armonaitis
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TRENTON, NJ - Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge could see an increase of up to 67 percent in school funding if a measure that was passed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee becomes the 2019 budget.  That could mean an addition million dollars in aid to Hasbrouck Heights, and $700,000 in aid to Wood-Ridge.

That budget however, may be vetoed by Governor Phil Murphy.  

Calls into Trenton for the exact amount of the proposed increases were unsuccessful.

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In a press release on Tuesday, it was announced that the  Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney to restore fairness to the state’s school aid formula by eliminating “growth caps” to provide proper funding to districts with growing enrollments and establishing a seven-year phase-out of  the “adjustment aid” that continues to compensate districts for students they no longer have.

The Sweeney legislation, Senate Bill 2, is accompanied by language in the budget bill that will shift $60 million in aid from adjustment aid districts and increase state aid by $65 million more than the $283 million recommended in the Governor’s budget in order to bring the overwhelming majority of underfunded districts to 58% funding.

A call into Sweeney’s office for the exact funding figures for both towns and Teterboro was not able to procure a list of all the towns' proposed funding.

“Our legislation will ensure that the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 lives up to its promise to provide fair and full funding for all children,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester). “State aid is supposed to be distributed based on each district’s property tax wealth, its ability to pay, enrollment changes, and the special needs of its schoolchildren. Lifting the growth cap and phasing out adjustment aid ensures that state aid ‘follows the child’ as the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA)  intended.

“But we have to make sure that state aid is not cut to districts that are spending less than the adequacy budget that the SFRA considers necessary to provide a ‘thorough and efficient’ education  because their overall property taxes are so high,” he said. “And we need to ensure that students do not suffer in districts that are receiving more than their fair share of state aid, but are still underfunded because they are paying less than their fair share of property taxes.”

The budget bill includes a five percent reduction in adjustment aid for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, and the Sweeney legislation calls for additional reductions of eight percent in 2019-2020, then by 10 percent, 14 percent, 18 percent, 21 percent and 24 percent through 2024-2025, when all “hold harmless” funding would be eliminated and these districts would be at 100 percent funding.

Sweeney noted that the overwhelming majority of the districts facing a seven-year phase-out of Adjustment Aid are spending above “adequacy” – the level set in the 2008 School Funding Reform Act as necessary to provide the “thorough and efficient” education required by the New Jersey Constitution. The amendments added to the bill are designed to provide additional protections for students in over 40 urban, suburban and rural districts that are facing adjustment aid cuts even though most are spending below adequacy.

 

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