Senate President Steve Sweeney joined with statewide education groups on Monday in order to discuss the school funding reform plan he is currently working on closely with state Senator Teresa Ruiz.
The bill, S2372, aims to bring all districts in New Jersey to full funding in five years. Sweeney’s plan, called Formula4Success, would fully fund the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, a plan introduced by the administration of former Governor Jon Corzine. Additionally, the bill aims to create a four-member “State School Funding Fairness Commission” to develop a plan to ensure 100 percent funding for all school districts. The bill has already been approved by the Senate Education Committee.
“This is a plan that aims to bring equal opportunity for all of New Jersey’s school children,” said Sweeney. “We want every school district to have the support needed to provide a quality education for all students throughout the state. This is about equity that accounts for the very real differences between what children in different areas experience so that our schoolchildren are provided the knowledge and the tools needed to succeed in today’s economy.”
The discussion included the following: Donna Chiera, AFT-NJ; Mike Vrancik, NJ School Boards Association; Melanie Schultz – NJ Association of School Administrators; Sharon Krengel and David Sciarra, Education Law Center; Jenn Keyes Maloney, NJ Principals & Supervisors; Betsy Ginsberg, Garden State Coalition of Schools; Janellen Duffy, Jersey CAN; Judy Savage, NJ Council of County and Vocational-Technical Schools; Steve Nagel, NJ PTA, and Peg Kinsell, SPAN.
While Sweeney’s plan focuses on restoring the 2008 plan that was deemed constitutional, he is not the only New Jersey politician currently pushing changes to the school funding formula. Governor Chris Christie recently proposed granting all of New Jersey’s schools a $6,599 per student flat rate of state aid regardless of income-based need or higher proportions of students requiring special services. Sweeney and his allies—as well as many Democratic officials, teachers and parents in urban areas—are sharply opposed to Christie’s plan. However, many in New Jersey are in favor of the governor’s proposal due to significant property tax relief it would grant many New Jersey households.
Sweeney is a likely 2017 gubernatorial nominee. His school funding plan push into many of the city’s urban areas gives Sweeney a strong platform and sharp opposition point against Christie moving into 2017.