Opinion: Three Very Different Flavors for NJ School Funding

By John Geppert • 05/18/17

Observer

School funding has been a key political issue for decades in New Jersey.

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New Jersey’s formula for allocating school funding is in the midst of an intense debate reflecting three very different philosophies. Gov. Chris Christie recently called it “more confusing than the formula for old Coke.” Nonetheless, there is little consensus on the path forward.

In 1981, the Education Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of 20 public school students in Camden, East Orange, Irvington and Jersey City. The suit in Abbott v. Burke alleged that the state’s method of funding public education was unconstitutional because it did not satisfy the educational needs of children in poor urban school districts. The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Public School Education Act of 1975 was unconstitutional as applied to 28 New Jersey school districts, which has since been increased to 31. The court further held that the state must develop a funding formula that would provide all children with equal educational opportunities.

After several court-mandated funding formulas and failed statutory schemes, the Legislature enacted the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA). In general, the statute uses a weighted funding formula to determine the per-pupil amount needed to support the core curriculum program for students. However, the state has consistently underfunded the formula, and lawsuits involving how to properly fund these disadvantaged districts are still ongoing. At the same time, economically disadvantaged students continue to struggle.

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Christie administration says N.J. has $527M budget hole that must be plugged soon

TRENTON -- The state will hold off making $308 million in Homestead property tax rebate reimbursements to municipalities for two months to reckon with a $527 million hole in the state budget, Treasurer Fred Scudder said Tuesday. 

The delay will be felt by municipalities, but not homeowners who've already received the credit against their property tax bills, Scudder told lawmakers. He said he doesn't expect it will affect their cash flows.

"While this is a step that we would prefer not to take, we view this two-month delay as a vastly superior option than reducing the pension payment or reducing other programmatic spending in the last two months of the year," Scudder said in announcing his office's plans to make up for the $527 million shortfall in tax collections.

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GOP Rep. Frelinghuysen Targets Activist in Letter to Her Employer

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500 Students in a One-Room School: Fallout of New Jersey’s Funding Woes

FREEHOLD BOROUGH, N.J. — At an elementary school in Freehold, over 500 students share a vast, open space where bookshelves, whiteboards, storage cubbies and other pieces of furniture are the only boundaries between classrooms.

There are no walls because the building was originally designed in the 1970s to be a smaller Montessori school, Rocco Tomazic, the superintendent of the Freehold Borough School District, explained during a recent tour. But now it is noisy and crowded, and the district does not have the money to move students into traditional closed classrooms — the kind with walls and fewer distractions.

The issue for Freehold Borough — and about two-thirds of New Jersey’s 586 school districts — is the state’s nine-year-old formula for paying for public schools. Adopted by the State Legislature in 2008, it calculates how much each district needs to ensure that students receive a “thorough and efficient” education, regardless of income, as New Jersey law requires.

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Rivals hammer Murphy (and his money) in N.J. Democratic debate for governor

By Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on May 11, 2017

(front to back) John Wisniewski, Phil Murphy, Jim Johnson and Raymond Lesniak wait to enter the studio during the Democratic debate in Newark

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NEWARK -- Two days after a relatively calm and cordial first debate, three Democratic hopefuls vying for their party's nomination to succeed Chris Christie as New Jersey's governor unleashed fury on front-runner Phil Murphy, whom they accused of trying to buy the nod from party bosses.

Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany and ex-Goldman Sachs executive who has spent more than $15 million so far on his campaign, was assailed by rivals Jim JohnsonRaymond Lesniak, and John Wisniewski on Thursday night during the second and final Democratic primary debate before voters cast ballots June 6. 

"We have a candidate who has made the system awash in money," Wisniewski, a longtime member of the state Assembly, said during the debate at NJTV's studios in Newark. "It's an obscene amount of money. It's pay-to-play at its worst."

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Guadagno and Ciattarelli Face Off in Their First GOP Gubernatorial Debate

By Max Pizarro | May 9, 2017

Insider NJ

 

 

GOP gubernatorial candidates Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) debated tonight at Stockton University for the first time, frequently clashing as they sized up the school funding formula, property taxes and their respective government records.

A CPA with an MBA, Ciattarelli made his case for new leadership in the New Jersey Republican Party, unencumbered by the pock-marked record of Governor Chris Christie, Guadagno’s top of the ticket ally.

“I am the only one who can beat Phil Murphy,” Ciattarelli said, looking into the NJTV camera, referring to the Democratic front-runner for Governor.

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NJ Gov Race: Democrats Agree a Lot; Murphy Takes Some Heat

By Salvador Rizzo

 

Left to right, Jim Johnson, Ray Lesniak, Phil Murphy and John Wisniewski.

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The four Democrats vying for their party’s nomination for governor debated for an hour Tuesday — if you can call it a debate when everyone sort of agrees on how to tackle the biggest problems facing New Jersey.

The debaters were Jim Johnson, a former undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury; Ray Lesniak, a state senator from Union County; Phil Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany under President Barack Obama; and John Wisniewski, a state assemblyman who blew the lid off the Bridgegate scandal.

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Tunnels Aren’t the Only Vision for New Jersey Transit in the Governor’s Race

Philip D. Murphy, a Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, stood in front of the Trenton train station, with a New Jersey Transit train that had been delayed 30 minutes behind him, and offered a starkly candid assessment: The state has a transportation crisis, and a new tax might be the only way to tackle it.

“Potentially, potentially,” Mr. Murphy said in response to a question from a reporter, though he stressed that a tax would be one of many options on the table.

But the moment underscored how the misery that so many travelers have endured in recent weeks — with the likelihood that things will get worse this summer when Amtrak closes tracks at Pennsylvania Station for repairs — has thrust public transportation to the forefront among those vying to become New Jersey’s next leader.

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NJ Gov Race: Majority of Voters Still Up for Grabs

By Alyana Alfaro • 05/03/17

Observer

Fifty-seven percent of voters say that they don’t know enough about Phil Murphy to form an opinion.

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A majority of New Jersey voters — 52 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans — is still up for grabs in the June 6 gubernatorial primaries, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Among Democrats who do say they back a candidate, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy gets 26 percent.

And after Murphy, there’s a sharp drop-off. Former U.S. Treasury undersecretary Jim Johnson clocked in at 7 percent, Assemblyman John Wisniewski at 5 percent, 4 percent for state Sen. Ray Lesniak, 3 percent for activist Bill Brennan and 1 percent for Tenafly Councilman Mark Zinna.

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Defying New Jersey's Top Judge, ICE Continues Arrests Inside Courthouses

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