Statements by key lawmakers during a state PTA conference in Mercer County last week provide a glimpse of future legislative proposals in the areas of property tax reform, school funding and school district organization.
Constitutional Convention A lack of consensus among Democrats and Republicans in the state Senate over the scope of a constitutional convention on property tax reform has doomed the proposal for the near future, according to Senator John Adler (D-6). GOP leaders want the convention to address spending, as well as revenue issues.
Funding Formula Assemblyman Craig Stanley (D-28), education committee chairman, expressed concern about the state’s ability to provide adequate aid to all districts. He noted the large amount of funds received by the Abbott districts and the relative ability of some districts to raise funds locally for education. Middle-income districts, however, are feeling a severe pinch in their efforts to provide the quality of education all students should expect, he pointed out.
Stanley also said that the state must establish a new school funding mechanism to address inequities created by rising enrollments. (The existing funding formula has not been fully implemented since 2001-02, resulting in repeated flat-funding or inadequate levels of state aid.)
Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-38), a member of the education committee, noted that there would be a negative impact on public schools if the state delays development of a new school funding formula and fails to resolve the property tax crisis.
Senator Adler believes that a draft school funding formula could be introduced later this year. However, he could not guarantee that it would be established in enough time to affect state funding in 2007-08.
District Operations Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-5) shared his concerns about home rule and the resulting large number of school districts and municipalities in New Jersey. Roberts believes that efforts to consolidate and share services should be a high priority now. The speaker plans to introduce legislation to enhance the role of the county superintendent in coordinating various aspects of local district operations.