Acting Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet testified on April 17 before the Senate Budget Committee concerning the proposed FY2019 state budget.
Dr. Repollet expressed willingness to work with the Legislature to make changes to the FY2019 state aid allocations. “Yes, I am talking about modernizing the existing formula,” the acting commissioner said. “Looking at enrollment growth caps, looking at adjustment aid (capping decreases), and also looking at the contributions of local shares.”
On April 23, Dr. Repollet gave a similar message to the Assembly Budget Committee. “Governor Murphy has stated very directly that the school funding formula needs to be reworked and modernized in consultation and collaboration with the Legislature. There’s no denying that the demographics of our school districts have changed since the initial development of the funding formula,” he said. “I stand with the governor in his commitment to work with this body to make the necessary adjustments to our statutory funding formula.”
A week prior to Dr. Repollet’s testimony before the Senate committee, Senate President Steve Sweeney had held up his confirmation as N.J. Commissioner of Education over “concerns about the lack of responsiveness by the administration on the signature issues of school funding”.
Sweeney, who was the driving force behind the changes made to last year’s allocations, expressed frustration that the proposed budget did not do enough to aid underfunded school districts, and represented more of the status quo of the previous eight years. Many of the Budget Committee members from both sides of the aisle echoed these concerns and were prepared to make Acting Commissioner Repollet aware of these feelings.
The NJSBA has continued to express the organization’s objections to the existence of enrollment caps, as well as the underfunding of the state formula. Ten years after the SFRA’s enactment, these growth limits, intended as a phase-in strategy, are no longer relevant. They are impeding the ability of school districts to meet the educational needs of their students.
Additionally, the NJSBA reminds both the administration and the Legislature it is also important to recognize that school districts are currently crafting their 2018-2019 budgets based on preliminary aid numbers released in March. If the legislature intends to reduce any state aid for a district, the NJSBA urges that these districts be notified as soon as possible so they may craft their budgets by July 1.