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Senate Education Committee approves bill to re-examine school funding formula

The New Jersey Senate Education Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) to establish the School Funding Formula Evaluation Task Force.

“We need to make sure New Jersey’s schools are the best in the nation and that our system of school funding is equitable and affordable,” Gopal, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, was quoted as saying in a Feb. 3 press release issued by the New Jersey Senate Democrats.

“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,” Gopal said.

The bill, S-354, if passed in the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by the Governor, would establish a task force to study, evaluate and, if needed, suggest changes to the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, according to the press release.

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, according to the press release.

“Special education funding is an issue of particular interest,” 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% 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, according to the press release.

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