Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) appointed a new committee chairwoman Wednesday. Bergen Democrat Marlene Caride (D-36) will replace Patrick Diegnan (D-18) of Middlesex as chair of the Assembly Education Committee following his appointment to the state Senate last month.
As chairwoman, Caride will face entrenched policy issues like the shoring up of New Jersey’s underfunded school districts and controversial plans to tweak the state’s school funding formula to better reflect individual districts’ needs. The legislature’s Democratic majorities rejected a plan to adjust the formula in March.
The Education Law Center threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of underfunded districts like Newark, Paterson and Jersey City unless the state adjusts aid amounts across the state and fully funds those districts in compliance with the School Funding Reform Act. If that lawsuit were successful, it would add $500 million in aid to the state budget.
Prieto said in a statement that he believes Caride is up to those challenges.
“Strong leadership in the education committee is vital and I have no doubt Assemblywoman Caride will deliver,” Prieto wrote. “I am certain Assemblywoman Caride will lead the committee in the direction necessary to ensure that our children meet their full academic potential.”
Caride said in her own statement that school funding will be the committee’s first priority.
“Many of our schools are struggling to meet expectations as funding become more and more scarce. I look forward to working with my fellow committee members to ensure that we implement policies that will help strengthen our schools and give them the resources needed so they can adequately prepare our children for academic success.
“I am honored and thankful for the opportunity to lead such a pivotal committee,” Caride continued. “The future of our state greatly depends on the quality of our educational system and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”