NJ Bill to Seek Transparency in School Funding

Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and Dave Wolfe will introduce a bill to address the ongoing issues with the methods used to determine state school aid. The bill requires the Department of Education to release to the school district, the data and software program used to calculate aid. Schools in the 10th Legislative District have had their funding severely cut under Governor Murphy’s budget and attempts to have the Department of Education provide full transparency when determining Local Fair Share have been unsuccessful.

“We have repeatedly demanded full transparency from the Department of Education about their process for calculating our Local Fair Share,” said Holzapfel. “It’s appalling that the DOE continues to keep secret their calculations of what they think our property taxpayers should pay.  We are in a position now where legislation is needed to get the answers our school districts deserve.”

The bill requires the Department of Education to provide any school district that requests the information, the data for all school districts used to calculate State school aid, including the data necessary to calculate all school districts’ adequacy budgets, equalization aid, and local shares. Additional the DOE would be required to provide the details of any adjustments made when the calculated local share exceeds the adequacy budget for every such district in the State. The department would be required to provide the software program regardless of whether or not the department considers the software program to be proprietary.

“The Governor believes that it’s ok to take money away from schools in our district that he has labeled as ‘rich’ but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” stated McGuckin. “According to the US Census Bureau, the median income for the entire state is $76,475. Toms River has a median income of $76,051 and Brick Township has a median income of $73,051. Those numbers are a clear indication that these townships are middle class,”

“Middle class is not upper class, and labeling these townships as such has had detrimental effect on how funding to these districts is calculated,” McGuckin continued. “It appears that the Department of Education uses a ‘secret formula’ to determine what districts are ‘rich’ and no one at the department will clarify how that determination is made. This legislation is our only option to reveal full transparency between the DOE, our school districts, and taxpayers.”

As some school districts grapple with reductions in State school aid under the provisions of S-2, it is only fair that increased transparency on State school aid calculations be provided to school districts. These school districts need to have the information required for them to determine that the State school aid formula has been calculated correctly and in accordance with the law for all school districts in the State.

“It’s clear that Governor Murphy doesn’t have our back and his plan is certainly not fairer or stronger for our residents as he suggests. In fact, it will only have a lasting negative impact as property taxes will be forced higher in order to preserve the quality of education in our local schools,” added Wolfe. “This bill is necessary to gain the information school districts need to fight the deep cuts imposed on them.”

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