TRENTON – The full Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator Declan O’ Scanlon that would stop funding cuts at regional school districts while encouraging smaller districts who are facing cuts due to declining enrollment to also move toward regionalization.
“Sometimes, even when school districts spend responsibly and allocate resources wisely, they face state aid cuts that hamper their mission to educate our young people,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), Chair of the Education Committee.
“Freehold Regional, for example, has been a model school district. We need to encourage more districts to move towards regionalization the way Freehold Regional has. This bill will help achieve that, and will also allow Freehold Regional to continue to offer courtesy busing for students,” added Senator Gopal.
Under the bill, a district would be eligible for the exemption from aid reductions under the condition that it:
- is a regional school district comprised of five or more constituent school districts;
- has mitigated the costs of regionalization as determined by the Commissioner of Education;
- spends 15 percent less in administrative costs per pupil than the Statewide average for regional school districts; and
- has increased the district’s general fund tax levy by the maximum amount permitted by statute in each of the last five years.
In addition, as a condition of being exempt from State aid reductions, an eligible district would be prohibited from eliminating courtesy busing to students who reside in the district, provided the district was providing courtesy busing prior to the school year in which it is exempt from a reduction in State aid.
Under the bill, both Freehold Regional School District and Rancocas Valley Regional School District would be eligible for the exemption.
The bill, S-3950, was released from the Senate by a vote of 23-8.