Ciattarelli: Assembly School Funding Reform Plan Offers ‘No Real Solution’

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli Max Pizarro for Obsserver

Following Assembly Democrats’ announcement that they will introduce legislation to form a new joint committee on school funding reform later this week, one Republican hopeful for his party’s nomination in the 2017 gubernatorial race is criticizing the plan. Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli said Monday that he would favor making direct changes to the formula, which has not been changed since 2008.

Ciattarelli said that the plan from Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto and Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Marlene Caride would only be an intermediate step to fixing the problem of under and overfunded school districts in New Jersey, saying that the Democrats “offer no real solution or timeline.”

“Severely underfunded school districts – in both Democratic and Republican towns – are in crisis. When one considers the impact on education and property taxes in communities that have been underfunded year-over-year-over-year . . . We need to make school funding fair, we need to make it right, and we need to do it now.

“There is no time for commissions, task forces or legislative committees. We need to reduce state aid to all overfunded school districts. I’ve proposed doing this by reducing their overfunded amount by 20% per year for five years. The savings would be channeled to the most severely underfunded districts.”

Ciattarelli is one of the frontrunners on the Republican side of the race to succeed Governor Chris Christie when he reaches his term limit. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno has said she plans to run, and comedian Joe Piscopo announced that he is weighing his own campaign last week.

The Assembly Democrats are at odds with Prieto’s Senate counterpart Steve Sweeney, whose own bill favors creating an independent task force. Prieto opposes that bill, which would allow the task force to bypass the committee amendment process. Governor Chris Christie has proposed a plan to level school funding across the state and offer the same portion of aid to every district regardless of need.