Senate approves Gopal bill to re-examine school funding formula 


The members of the New Jersey state Senate have 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,” said Gopal, 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,” Gopal was quoted as saying in a press release.

If passed in the Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, 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, according to the press release.

The task force would assess the various weights applied to different student characteristics – such as “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,” 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 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), passed the Senate by a vote of 34-0, according to the press release.