Senate Education Committee Approves Gopal Bill to Reexamine School Funding Formula

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To ensure that the school funding formula is meeting the needs of students in every school district, yesterday the Senate Education Committee approved legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal to establish the School Funding Formula Evaluation Task Force.

“We need to make sure that New Jersey’s schools are the best in the nation, and that our system of school funding is equitable and affordable,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “The School Funding Reform Act requires the formula to be evaluated every three years, but only certain provisions are considered. This legislation would require a fundamental reassessment of the funding formula to determine whether it still reflects the true cost of education in New Jersey.”

The bill, S-354, would establish a task force to study, evaluate and, if needed, suggest changes to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. The task force would assess the various weights applied to different student characteristics – such “at risk” or English Language Limited students – geographic cost adjustments and the provision of special education aid.

“Special education funding is an issue of particular interest,” Senator Gopal said. “There has been considerable debate about the impact of the current census-based formula used to calculate special education aid, which funds every district based on the assumption that their special education needs reflect a 15 percent statewide average percentage of students with disabilities.

“As a result, districts get the same aid whether they have large populations of students with disabilities or not, and regardless of whether they are spending as much as they should or providing the special education their students need,” he said.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Sussex/Morris/Warren), was unanimously approved.

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