TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nicholas Sacco and Joseph Doria that would increase state aid to school districts bordered by three or more Abbott school districts was approved by the Assembly today.
“Just because a school district doesn’t meet all of the qualifications of the Abbott districts doesn’t mean it is without the economic and social challenges that Abbott districts face,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen. “The needs of our districts are not as black and white as the funding formula would suggest. These ring districts face many of the same challenges as their Abbott neighbors – they also share low income levels, high numbers of students in English as a second language classes and the need to provide more social services like free lunches. These districts are struggling to provide their students with the programs and services to combat these challenges and these additional funds will help provide their students with a high quality education.”
Bill S-2558 would create a new category of State aid for school districts that fit certain criteria. The additional aid would be appropriated to school districts that are bordered by three or more Abbott districts if the district meets one or more of the following criteria: a) the district’s per pupil cost was less than the average per pupil cost for the Abbott districts; b) the district had a student mobility rate of 10% or greater; c) 35% or more of the district’s students were eligible for free or reduced price meals under the federal school lunch program; d) 15% or more of the district’s classrooms had a class size of 30 or more students; and e) the per capita personal income of the residents of the school district was $19,000 or less.
“This is not a definitive solution to the problems we face in fairly and adequately funding our schools. What is does is address the immediate needs of a group of districts that are only hanging on by the thinnest of threads,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “Without this additional aid, these districts are in danger of toppling into full Abbott status and we hope that early intervention will prevent such an occurrence. We need to do a better job in providing assistance to the ring school districts so that economic disadvantage doesn’t pull down an entire region.”
The bill would also set out a graduated funding formula based on pupil enrollment, the difference in aid per pupil between the individual district and the Abbott district average, and the number of qualifying criteria the district meets. The bill would benefit five school districts in the first year – North Bergen, Bayonne, Clifton, Hillside, and Weehawken – and give those districts a combined $19,970,905 in additional aid.
The bill goes to the Governor for his signature.