1-14-13 and 1-15-13 Resolution voted out of Assembly and Senate Budget Committees 1-14-13 mostly along by party vote
(GSCS Note: Given the nature of the discussions surrounding the issues, given the mostly partisan nature of the committee votes, and given the fact that this is an election year for the legislature and the governor, this will be a partisan controversy that will play out throughout the budget debate for FY2013-2014. Stay tuned...)

Politickernj-State Street Wire - Resolution opposing school funding reduction for at-risk students passes committee

"...The resolution, SCR-134 was passed by the committee along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Linda Greenstein, (D-14) who said while she was not totally in favor of the plan, it resulted in an additional $3 million for Hamilton Township school district, the largest school district in the 14th..."

NJ Spotlight - Democrats Seek to Block Administration's Attempt to Revise School Funding Formula…Under governor's proposal, poorest districts could get less in next year’s state budget… Conversely, Republican legislators said there was no evidence the additional funding would help these schools, and cited what they called the unfairness of a funding formula in which some districts receive exponentially more in state aid than others..."

Press of Atlantic City - Assembly, Senate panels oppose reductions in New Jersey school funding proposal



Politickernj-State Street Wire - Resolution opposing school funding reduction for at-risk students passes committee

By Darryl R. Isherwood | January 14th, 2013 - 3:14pm

The Senate budget committee today passed a resolution opposing portions of a new school funding plan that reduces funding for at-risk students.

The resolution, SCR-134 was passed by the committee along party lines, with the exception of Sen. Linda Greenstein, (D-14) who said while she was not totally in favor of the plan, it resulted in an additional $3 million for Hamilton Township school district, the largest school district in the 14th.

The formula, which was contained in the Education Adequacy Report presented to the Legislature last year, reduces the weight given to at-risk and bilingual students, in effect reducing funding for poor students.

“The Legislature hereby notifies the Governor that it objects to the recommendations included in the Educational Adequacy Report that reduce the weights associated with at-risk students, bilingual education students and combinations students, on the basis that the recommendations are not supported by any research or analysis demonstrating that the use of the higher weights included in the school funding law has provided school districts with more resources that are required to provide for the additional educational needs of the students,” the resolution reads.

The resolution passed in the Assembly Budget Committee earlier today by an 8 to 4 vote.

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NJ Spotlight - Democrats Seek to Block Administration's Attempt to Revise School Funding Formula…Under governor's proposal, poorest districts could get less in next year’s state budget… Conversely, Republican legislators said there was no evidence the additional funding would help these schools, and cited what they called the unfairness of a funding formula in which some districts receive exponentially more in state aid than others.

By John Mooney, January 15, 2013 in Education|

The Christie administration’s plans to adjust the state’s school-funding formula and reduce the extra aid for at-risk students hit another snag yesterday, as Senate and Assembly Democrats took steps to block the changes before the 2014 state budget is even introduced.

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The Senate and Assembly budget committees both endorsed a resolution that effectively rejects a report filed by the administration under the School Funding Reform Act, which proposes changes to the complex formula used to divvy up almost $9 billion a year to schools.

The Education Adequacy Report filed by state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf last month proposed increasing the base amounts that all districts should be spending on pupils, but decreasing the extra amounts -- or so-called funding weights -- aimed specifically at low-income and limited-English students.

Senate Democrats yesterday afternoon echoed what their Assembly colleagues said in the morning, maintaining that reductions for at-risk students would only hurt programs aimed at closing achievement gaps between rich and poor kids.

A report by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services said the administration’s plan would be $162 million less than the amount if fully funded under SFRA -- something that it has rarely been. Close to 100 districts would get more under the proposal, while 152 would see less, the OLS report said.

One of those districts that would see a lot less is Newark, a state-operated district that has been the focus of Cerf’s reform agenda under Gov. Chris Christie. The OLS estimates that Newark's funding weight would be trimmed by $50 million.

“We have become the model of reform, and decreasing any of the [funding] weights sends the wrong message and puts a community at risk that has been working to ensure students perform at their best and could negatively impact the work that everyone is here to do,” said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), sponsor of the resolution and the influential chair of the Senate education committee.

Both committees approved the resolution along mostly party lines, with the measure next going to full vote of both chambers. The measure requires the administration to revise its report and resubmit it to the Legislature.

The immediate significance of that requirement is uncertain, however. Technically, if the resolutions are approved as expected, the administration has 30 days to come back with a new report that “responds to these objections.”

But even Democrats acknowledged that the real battle will be in upcoming budget deliberations, with this resolutions giving the administration ample warning as to what Assembly and Senate majorities will support. Christie is expected to present his fiscal year 2014 budget on February 26.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate budget committee, said the resolution sends a clear message to the administration not to come back with a budget that incorporates the proposed changes in the aid allotments.

The administration made almost identical changes in the current year's budget, earning a rebuke from the Democrats as well. Although the Democrats rejected the language, however, they ultimately upheld the final dollar amounts.

Sarlo blamed that the Democrat's decision on the timing of the budget process last year. “This time, they have plenty of time now to come back to us,” Sarlo said yesterday after the meeting. “They need to come back to us.”

Added Ruiz: “This opens the doors to discussion during the budget process. Doing this now really gives the chance for the Department of Education to revisit the issue.”

The gist of the Democrats argument yesterday was that the state had not shown any empirical evidence that reducing the funding weights was warranted. Several of those who testified for the resolution said the approach ran against the administration’s own new focus on low-performing schools.

“They can’t simultaneously decide to decrease funding to those students requiring the most intensive resources,” said Deborah Cornavaca, an organizer with Save Our Schools New Jersey, a grassroots advocacy group. “It is simply counterintuitive.”

Conversely, Republican legislators said there was no evidence the additional funding would help these schools, and cited what they called the unfairness of a funding formula in which some districts receive exponentially more in state aid than others.

“There are millions in this state who feel the state funding formula is not serving them well,” said state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris).

“When you have a funding formula that so favors some districts over others, that subsidizes some students and essentially ignores others, not only is it a bad statement on fairness, it is a financial burden on million of taxpayers in the state,” he added. 

 

Press of Atlantic City - Assembly, Senate panels oppose reductions in New Jersey school funding proposal

By DIANE D’AMICO Education Writer : Monday, January 14, 2013 6:04 pm | Updated: 10:04 pm, Mon Jan 14, 2013.

Budget Committees in the state Assembly and Senate rejected proposed changes to the state school funding formula Monday, approving a joint resolution to send the recommendations back to the state education commissioner.

The resolutions said the proposed reductions in aid to at-risk, non-English speaking and some special education students were arbitrary and not based on any data or analysis as required. They now go to the full Assembly and Senate, likely in early February.

 

Education Commissioner Chris Cerf submitted the Education Adequacy Report to the Legislature on Dec. 14. The report is required by the state school funding law every three years as a review of how the funding formula is being implemented. The Legislature has 90 days to respond or the recommendations in the report take effect.

The resolutions said the Legislature has no problems with the base per-pupil amount proposed in the report, which, based on such factors as cost of living, would increase from $10,555 this year to $11,009 in 2013-14. Aid for preschool, transportation and basic special education services would also increase.

But the resolution said there was no research-based reason given for reducing the additional amounts provided for at-risk students and those who speak limited English. Reducing those funds would disproportionately affect low-income and urban school districts.

 

The report also proposed increasing the funding threshold at which districts could get additional funds for expensive special education placements, saying that the state anticipates this change will allow only students with the highest costs to be eligible and will help ensure that the state can reimburse those costs.

 

The Legislative resolution says that recommendation seems motivated more by a desire to reduce state expenditures than help districts cover the cost of expensive out-of-district placements for disabled students.

The votes in the committees fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting the resolution. Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, a co-sponsor of the Senate resolution said the current school funding formula had taken a long time to research and negotiate and was upheld by the state Supreme Courts as constitutional.

 

“The funding weight given to the at-risk and other categories weren’t just pulled out of the air,” he said. “But now the commissioner says he just wants to change some of them and I didn’t see any thought, analysis or research go into that decision. He just says we’re spending too much.”

 

David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, which has represented urban children, said the resolution was very detailed, and singled out the two areas that should be opposed.

 

“The Legislature is protecting the formula from arbitrary changes,” he said, adding he was surprised more legislators don’t oppose it since the special education formula reduction could affect every district in the state.

If the resolution passes both houses, the commissioner has 30 days to review it and respond.

 

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who sits on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, voted for the resolution and said during the upcoming state budget hearings he would also like to address the geography clause in the school funding law that gives less aid to districts in the southern part of the state on the assumption that it is less expensive to educate students there.

 

“I just want to get that on the record now,” Van Drew said. “I hope we can do something for the poor, rural districts that are being hurt by this.”

Contact Diane D'Amico: 609-272-7241 DDamico@pressofac.com