TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, the Republican budget officer, made the following comments during the Assembly Budget Committee hearing with the Department of Education:
“The days of legislators loudly promising everything to everyone and quietly doing nothing for anyone have to come to an end. There are fundamental flaws in the structure of the budget, and leaky holes in the roof. Too many legislators are inclined to believe the pockets of taxpayers are bottomless pits of cash.
“In this committee we have heard about horror stories about conditions in the Paterson school district from Assembly Wimberly, staff and parents, and we know there are many other districts facing serious obstacles. There are parents from Red Bank Borough in the committee room today. Taxpayers in Paterson pay 30 percent of the districts local fair share, while they pay 83 percent of fair share in Red Bank. Paterson is below adequacy by 16 percent, and Red Bank falls 30 percent short of adequacy.
“We need a new school funding formula. It is unfair and it is unattainable. It isn’t working. We are going to have to come together in a bipartisan effort to solve these issues. This is not about playing one school district against another. This cannot be about legislators selfishly defending the school districts we represent.”
According to Commissioner of Education David Hespe, Gov. Christie has allocated an increase of $548 million for education in the fiscal year 2017 budget. To fully fund the school formula, including eliminating artificial caps will cost an additional $2.1 billion. Of the state’s school districts, 365 are funded “above adequacy” and 226 are below.