Senate panel moves education innovation grant

TRENTON – A $5 million education grant proposal that would reward innovative schools cleared a Senate panel Thursday.

The Senate Education Committee released S3031, which would provide schools grant funding to “develop innovative educational practices.” The bill aims to spur teachers and education officials to move the education ball forward and develop innovative practices, according to the proposal’s sponsor.

The bill nearly unanimously cleared the committee. Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) abstained.

“This a starting point,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29). “I’m hoping that this begins a conversation.”

Opponents to the legislation argued the education funds in the proposal could be used for better purposes. Several of the opponents argued school funding is not at appropriate levels and suggested the $5 million funding could better serve schools that are already struggling.

Ruiz argued innovative education models can work in tandem with cost-saving measures, and said the state shouldn’t discourage forward thinking just because cuts are being made in the state budget.

“The key to this is that if the districts have a phenomenal way of doing things … that this grant would be in place,” she said.

A similar proposal was line item vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie from the last budget bill.

The updated proposal stipulates that grant dollars would not be awarded to any program that would compensate teaching staff members on a competitive basis or for achieving specified objectives, according to the bill. Senate panel moves education innovation grant