Doherty, other lawmakers push for ‘Fair School Funding’ plan

TRENTON – Sen. Mike Doherty, (R-23), Washington Township, was joined today by fellow Republican lawmakers and various legislative district candidates to support his Fair School Funding Act that he said will bring “real and substantial property tax relief.”

The plan calls for providing $7,481 per student in each school, regardless of a school district’s socioeconomic status. Since unveiling the plan in May, Doherty has been promoting the plan by taking a page out of Gov. Chris Christie’s playbook and holding town hall meetings focusing on this school funding issue.

Urban school districts that receive much of the their funding from the state, such as Newark, Camden and Asbury Park, stand to lose a lot of state aid that would then be redistributed to suburban and rural school districts.

Doherty was joined on the Statehouse steps this afternoon by supporters from the Legislature. Assemblyman Gary Chiusano and Assemblywoman Alison Littell-McHose, (both R-24); Assemblymen John DiMaio and Erik Peterson, (both R-23); and Sen. Gerald Cardinale, (R-30), Demarest took part.

Other supporters of the Fair Share plan who weren’t at the press conference include Sens. Anthony Bucco, Steve Oroho, and Joe Pennachio, all of whom serve on the Senate Budget Committee.

Doherty said the current school funding issue is being “hijacked” by the Supreme Court and it’s time that residents receive their fair share of aid from government. He said many towns send millions of dollars to state government, only to get peanuts back in state aid for the schools.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “It should be handed out equally, regardless of where they live.”

DiMaio said, “We need to keep fighting this fighting.”

Support from the plan isn’t coming from just suburbanites. David Pinckney, a Republican candidate in the 28th Legislative District and an Irvington middle school teacher, supports Doherty’s plan. He supports the plan even though the Irvington School District would stand to lose a lot of money. It currently receives about $18,000 per student.

“No child is worth 10 times more than a child in another district,” he said to applause by fellow legislative candidates. He admitted that “entrenched bureaucracy is not going to like (Doherty’s plan)…but I don’t care.”

He said “test scores will go up dramatically” if the Fair School Funding plan goes into effect.

In a follow-up interview, Pinckney said much of the state funding to schools doesn’t reach the classroom and more needs to be done to empower teachers.

“The money is not going to the students,” he said.

The group Conservative New Jersey put out a pledge for the plan that the legislative candidates signed at the press conference.

Among other things, the pledge states that the Supreme Court’s decision to provide more funding for the former Abbott districts is “unequal and “disproportionate.”

It adds that the higher property taxes in New Jersey are the result of “an un-elected Supreme Court issuing orders directing the Legislature to appropriate ever greater taxpayer funds.”