TRENTON, NJ – Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli responded to Speaker Vincent Prieto’s school funding proposal Wednesday, which calls for pumping an additional $125 million in state aid to the most underfunded school districts with no reductions to overfunded districts.
“Any policy maker who is talking about increasing K-12 school funding to underfunded districts with no mention of decreasing funding to overfunded districts like Hoboken and Jersey City is pandering,” said Ciattarelli (R-Somerset). “In addition, We can no longer ignore the gross inequity of 100 percent state funded pre-K in a select number of districts while the vast majority of New Jerseyans pay for pre-K out of their own pockets.”
Hoboken is overfunded by $7.5 million per year and Jersey City is overfunded by $160 million. Both towns also receive 100 percent state funding for pre-K. As an example of hundreds of districts across the state, Manville is under adequacy by $3 million and doesn’t receive any state pre-K funding.
“More government spending fueled by higher taxes isn’t the solution to every problem in New Jersey,” continued Ciattarelli. “In fact, it's the exact opposite. When a $275,000 home in Manville pays more in property taxes than the owner of a $800,000 townhouse in Jersey City . . . When middle class parents pay for their children’s pre-K and Hoboken and Jersey City parents get pre-K for free, we have an injustice of epic proportion.”
Local education officials across the state agreed with Assemblyman Ciattarelli that the school funding formula’s inequities must be fixed.
Newton Board of Education President Stella Dunn said, "There is no equity when Newton residents pay 44 percent above our fair share and the state severely underfunds us, while other districts remain overfunded and are not paying their share of local taxes. The status quo cannot continue. This needs to change now."
Manville School Board President Heidi Alles stated, “It is becoming impossible to maintain the quality of our education when our district is being underfunded. I invite legislators to come to Manville and explain to our students why their library had to be closed to make room for more classroom space.”
Delran education funding activist Mike Piper replied, “The inequitable distribution of state school aid is infuriating to suburban taxpayers. To suggest that throwing money at the problem is somehow a feasible solution is simply repeating the same pattern of behavior that got us into this mess.”
However, NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer stated he supports Prieto’s plan. “Speaker Prieto gets it. Politicians in Trenton shouldn’t punish students in some districts to make up for the shortfalls in other districts.”
Ciattarelli swiftly responded, “Considering that NJEA is supposed to equally represent all teachers, how is the current situation at all fair to Manville teachers when compared to Hoboken teachers?
“Mr. Steinhauer’s comments are a sad commentary and a misrepresentation of the problem,” continued Ciattarelli. “Any plan to reduce aid to overfunded districts will not result in punishing students; it will require local elected officials to make responsible spending decisions that are made by other officials in the vast majority of New Jersey every day. It would be nice if Mr. Steinhauer’s concerns about fairness extended to suburban teachers, property taxpayers and students.”