Should Governor Murphy use federal stimulus funds to prevent school aid cuts?
While the fight continues for districts losing millions in state aid to get that money back from the state, a trio of New Jersey Legislators have come up with a plan to prevent any cuts, at least for the 2021-22 school year.
It would help districts like Toms River, who is set to lose $8.1 million for the next school year, as well as districts including Brick, Jackson and Freehold Regional.
New Jersey State Senator Steve Oroho as well as Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space (all from the 24th District representing parts of Sussex, Warren and Morris Counties) have introduced pieces of legislation in the Assembly and Senate (also sponsored by Senator Sandra Cunningham) that would use $193-million of the $6.6-billion the State is directly receiving in federal stimulus funds to prevent any school district from suffering a state aid cut for the 2021-22 school year.
"The state government has received $2.4-billion before and we're expecting another $6.6-billion in federal stimulus funds," Senator Oroho tells Townsquare Media News. "There's already $50-million in the Governor's budget submission to the legislature for what's called 'The Emergency Aid' that could go to those districts who are having some sort of funding cut."
Oroho explains that that $50-million could be subtracted from the $193-million and you'd only have to use $143-million out of the federal stimulus funding to prevent school aid cuts.
"In this kind of environment with the year that we've just been through and the year that we're going to have to go through for next school year, I just think this is common sense," Oroho said.
All these districts are losing aid with grappling on how to use what money isn't being cut for various other necessities, salaries and since last year, PPE.
"You have school districts that have been spending money on sanitizing, PPE and putting up plexiglass to ensure social distancing between students," Senator Oroho tells Townsquare Media News. "This is not a year for any school district to have to suffer a funding cut.
Oroho says there's already flaws with the School Funding Formula, or what he calls "the unfair school funding formula", and wants to change this formula moving forward.
"I hear that we are going to be reviewing the formula and I volunteered, I'd gladly suggest ideas on how to fix it and make it fair," Oroho said.
Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space issued a joint statement on their companion bill to prevent school funding cuts in the upcoming school year.
“I stated back in February when the school aid figures were released that with the windfall of federal pandemic help and improving revenues contributing to a budget surplus, there are resources available to adequately fund our schools,” Assemblyman Wirths said in a statement. “With the amount of federal aid which the State of New Jersey has received, no school should be punished because they have the wrong zip codes in the wrong counties.”
“By using a fraction of the federal stimulus money to avoid cuts in state school aid, we are being fair to every student, educator, or taxpayer no matter where they live,” Space said in a statement. “Enacting this legislation will be a win-win for students and taxpayers all across New Jersey, from High Point to Cape May!”