Doria: Legislature Should “Listen, Learn And Lead” On School Funding Reform

TRENTON – Senator Joseph V. Doria Jr. today said New Jersey needs to “make a commitment to a new school funding formula and stick with it” to ensure a quality education for children at a reasonable cost.

“We need to listen, to learn and to lead,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson, who holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership. “We have to listen to the public, learn the needs of all aspects of the educational community and then lead by offering solutions to the challenges of providing educational fairness to all children.”

Senator Doria told colleagues on the Joint Committee on Public School Funding Reform that a critical roadblock in meeting the State’s responsibility to provide adequate educational opportunities for children, ages 3 to 21, has been a failure to fund whatever school formula has been in effect over the last 25 years.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t funded the (school) formula for more than one or two years for the last 25 years,” said Senator Doria. “We need to make a commitment to a new school funding formula and stick with it.”

Senator Doria and other members of the bipartisan, bicameral panel, listened to educational experts outline a history of funding attempts over the years to meet the constitutional mandate to provide all New Jersey school children with a “thorough and efficient” education as interpreted in Supreme Court cases over the last 30 years.

The panel has been charged during a special legislative session with finding a new funding formula that Senator John H. Adler, a committee co-chairman, says must be fair to children and to taxpayers.

Senator Doria said he believes one of the most critical issues that must be addressed by the panel is the “governance of school systems,” particularly regional school districts and whether they should be re-organized.

“We should determine, based on what we hear, whether there is an optimum size for a school district,” Senator Doria said.

Among the technical questions that have to be addressed is how to address the reality that most local school budgets span two fiscal years, Senator Doria added.

In the context of containing the rise of local property taxes, Senator Doria noted the importance of the school funding reform panel by pointing out that of the three components of local levies, the amounts to be raised for municipal services, county operations and schools, “The education part is always the largest.”