Education advocates seek greater increase in funding; say schools still underfunded

NEWARK – Public schools need an increase in funding and a change in the proposed school aid formula, according to education advocates testifying at the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on Monday.

Brian Volz, of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said that while the proposed additional $140 million in funding to schools is better than additional cuts, the money is “far short of what the school formula requires and what our children deserve.”

This year, the state has changed the way it counts enrollment, moving from a one day tally to an average daily attendance model.  Officials say the change will give schools an incentive to keep students in school, while opponents say it will decrease funding for schools in poor districts.

“This would result in a significant drop in funding for districts that serve poor students whose daily attendance in school is compromised by ill health, family challenges and other issues, problems over which the district has no control,” said Sharon Krengel, the Policy and Outreach Coordinator with the Education Law Center.
Krengel urged the Legislature to “rewrite the provisions for school aid in the budget based on the educationally necessary, and legally required, costs, weights, enrollment and other parameters” in the state educational aid formula.

Julia Sass Rubin of Save Our Schools NJ echoed Krengel’s concerns.

“We ask that you reject the funding formula changes proposed in this budget and instead put forth a budget that allocates school aid based on the current school funding formula,” she said. “That formula was adopted in a bipartisan manner, after much consideration and study.”

Lynne Strickland, the executive director of Garden State Coalition of Schools, said she was in favor of the additional school aid, but still had concerns about underfunding. Strickland also said she had concerns about charter schools, which “create a hole in school budgets.”

Education advocates seek greater increase in funding; say schools still underfunded