Advocates say FY14 proposal doesn’t go far enough for schools

TRENTON – Despite record funding in state aid to New Jersey’s public schools under Gov. Chris Christie’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, residents are decrying the governor’s plan as one that doesn’t do enough for state schools.

School advocates, including the more than 10,000-member Save Our Schools New Jersey group, told Senate lawmakers during the first Fiscal Year 2014 public hearing that Christie’s plan will “underfund the school funding formula for the fifth year in a row,” said Susan Cauldwell, a member of the grassroots organization.

She testified during Tuesday’s Senate Budget and Appropriations public hearing.

“We ask that you once again reject the funding formula changes proposed in the budget and instead put forth a budget that allocates school aid based on the current school funding formula,” said Cauldwell, referring to the bipartisan funding formula adopted by the Legislature in recent years.

“Please do not be fooled by the governor’s claim that no district will lose funding in FY 2014 as compared to FY 2013,” she said. “Had this not been an election year, Save Our Schools NJ believes many districts would have seen a reduction in their state aid.”

Cauldwell echoed comments made by the executive director, David Sciarra, of the Education Law Center shortly after Christie’s annual budget address.

Sciarra told PolitickerNJ that while state aid would increase under the governor’s proposal, funding was still falling short of the mandated levels and argued further that the majority of increased funding did little to keep up with the cost of living.

The state has 232 “under adequacy districts” that will see an increase over last year of only 1.3 percent, Sciarra explained. The $56 million increase to those schools ranges from flat funding to 19 percent, he said, adding that 83 districts will get less than $1,000 of increased aid and 93 will receive less than a $10,000 boost.

“I agree this is the most state aid ever put into the budget,” Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), chairman of the Senate committee, said Tuesday.

“However, [school districts will say] … way to pay yourself on the back,” he said. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”

Advocates say FY14 proposal doesn’t go far enough for schools