Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, and Manuel Da Silva, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, joined numerous other state officials to highlight items in Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget at an April 24 Assembly Budget Committee hearing.

Allen-McMillan said the governor’s proposed budget “continues his unprecedented commitment to New Jersey’s schools, educators, and students.” It would increase aid to New Jersey schools by $1 billion over the previous year’s levels, for a total of nearly $20.5 billion to support education, she said.

“This includes increases in K-12 school aid, increases in preschool funding, and several new and continued programs to further support our educators and to address learning recovery for students,” she said. “With an increase of $832.2 million in K-12 formula aid, this budget would usher in year six of the seven-year statutorily required funding formula, designed in partnership with the Legislature, to phase-in districts to their full funding under the School Funding Reform Act, as amended by S-2. Additionally, the governor recently signed legislation to provide over $103 million in supplemental stabilization aid to 168 districts, whose funding was adjusted downward through the implementation of S-2. School districts began eligibility for this funding in early April, and the department will continue to review and distribute funds on a rolling basis.”

The acting commissioner also highlighted the New Jersey Partnership for Student Success, which is a coordinated series of initiatives designed to assist school districts in addressing learning loss and academic recovery among students, as well as youth mental health, educator empowerment and universal preschool. “Just as parent groups, community centers and local churches supported remote learning and served meals to students during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor and I now renew that call to action to help educators and students thrive in an endemic world. To that end, a key foundation for NJPSS is the recruitment of caring individuals and organizations to serve as tutors, mentors, student success coaches, wraparound service coordinators and post-secondary transition coaches,” she said.

Allen-McMillan highlighted numerous other items in the proposed budget in extended comments. Read her full testimony which she also delivered at an April 18 Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting.

SDA Chief Comments on Budget

Da Silva noted that since the approval of nearly $2 billion in funding last year, substantial program activities have occurred.

“The SDA board of directors approved the advancement of 19 capital projects in 14 SDA districts,” he said. “The construction of these schools will provide more than 11,700 new seats in districts that are experiencing capacity deficiencies or extreme facility conditions deficiencies. We have already begun design activities on 5 of the 19 projects we plan to advance. Two of the five projects will also begin demolition activities later this summer. In addition, we recently employed an alternative delivery method to address one of the projects approved for Newark. SDA’s recent acquisition of a former school building earlier this year is expected to welcome over 300 students this fall.” He added, “Scope development and scope finalization activities are ongoing for the remaining 13 projects.”

Da Silva noted that the fiscal year 2023 budget once again provided $75 million to be issued in the form of grants to both SDA and regular operating districts for capital maintenance and emergent projects. “With these grant dollars, districts are able to prioritize facility work they deem most essential and to address items quickly,” he said. “To date, we have disbursed approximately $60 million of this funding to 322 school districts. We have analyzed the projects funded in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, and we have determined that the majority of the funding has been used to address HVAC, building envelope, life safety, and security needs. The inclusion of this funding once again in the fiscal year 2024 budget is prudent as it will allow districts to proactively address some of their facility needs districtwide on a yearly basis. Through continuation of this annual funding, districts are able to more efficiently plan for work that can be done in the upcoming year.”

Da Silva also commented on the pandemic, noting that it caused supply chain challenges. “However, we have worked with our construction partners to minimize project impacts whenever possible,” he said. “Due to our prudent planning and budgeting policies, we have been able to absorb any added costs encountered on school projects due to supply chain issues and inflation impacts.”

Read Da Silva’s full testimony, which he also delivered at the April 18 Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting.

You can also find an analysis of the budget and responses from the NJDOE and NJSDA to specific questions under the Department of Education heading here.

View the entire April 24 proceeding.