TRENTON – Two lawmakers – one Republican and one Democrat – hope to introduce bipartisan legislation within the next couple of weeks to call for closing the state education funding gap that exists within their legislative districts due to lower costs-of-living in those areas.
Sen. Steve Oroho, (R-24), Sparta and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Dennis, want legislation to close the geographic adjustment aid, which is part of the 2008 School Funding Reform Act. The adjustments means school districts that are in less prosperous counties would receive less school funding.
Oroho said several school districts in his legislative district, which is largely comprised of rural Sussex County, have gotten short shrift as a result of the adjustment “from the (former Gov. Jon) Corzine era.”
Oroho said it is “bogus” to assume education costs in certain sections of the state are much cheaper than in other parts of the state.
“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 steady expenses,” Oroho noted. “Just as children should not be penalized if they live in a failing school district, students should not suffer from a reduction in state aid because of a nonsensical geographic stipulation in a flawed school funding formula.”
Following the lengthy Senate Budget Committee hearing today focusing on the Education Department’s budget, Van Drew said school districts in two counties in his legislative district – Cape May and Atlantic – suffer from a similar inequity.
He said that while he understands the cost-of-living in South Jersey counties isn’t as high as in the North Jersey counterparts, certain things – like the costs for special education and transportation – could be just as high in “deep South Jersey” as anywhere else.
“When you’re cutting their aid, that makes it even harder for them,” he said.
Office of Legislative Services budget officer David Rosen pointed out that while the Geographic Adjustment Aid has been in place for some four years, legislators, for whatever reason, are now focusing more attention on it this year.