Buono: No Surrender On School Aid Formula

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono today said the State should continue seeking an accord on a new school aid formula to help suburban districts who have been hurt by flat funding for the last five years.

“This is no time to surrender on finding a new school aid formula,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “I’ve heard too many horror stories from concerned parents to give up at this point.”

The Senate Democratic lawmaker, who noted districts like Edison, Metuchen and East Brunswick need a new formula now, said she was reacting to reports that the Corzine Administration had abandoned hopes of crafting a new school aid formula this year.

“The good school districts need a funding fix to avoid losing more ground in their quest for top quality education for their children,” Senator Buono said. “I think it’s way too premature for the Governor’s Office and the Legislature to throw up their hands for the year.”

Senator Buono, who voted today as one of 28 bipartisan senators to pass a plan containing more than $2 billion in property tax relief, said its enactment may help the Governor’s Office and the Legislature focus now on school funding.

“The good schools need a structure of State aid they can depend on, a formula that won’t disappear on them when the players change,” Senator Buono said.

At the same time, Senator Buono said it is wrong to suggest that the tax relief package which received final legislative approval today will detract from efforts to enact a new formula that treats all schools and schoolchildren equally.

“If anything, I believe it will become clearer by the day that we need results, not platitudes simply decrying the unfairness of the current system,” Senator Buono said.

School taxes account for well over half of the State’s total property taxes of more than $20 billion annually.

Audit reports from the Department of Education revealed last week that hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on reckless spending in the State’s poorest school districts, including unchecked equipment orders and pension payments to long deceased school personnel.

“School districts supported locally by working families are fed up and they can’t take it anymore,” Senator Buono said. “We shouldn’t make them wait anymore either – for a new school funding formula.”

Senator Buono said, “It’s far past time to remove the cloak of secrecy from around the much-studied formula being developed by the Department of Education. It’s time to press ahead on the formula to give long-lasting substance to the significant tax relief we provided today.”

Senator Buono said schools in her 18th Legislative Districts are especially hard hit by rising enrollments because they are highly desirable. The influx of students also present funding problems linked to special education needs, she said.