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 signed into law over the weekend by Governor Codey.
“These are school districts that look like Abbotts, face many of the same problems as Abbotts, but do so without the State assistance we designate for Abbott districts,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen. “The local school officials in these near-Abbotts are battling overcrowding, widespread poverty and increased dropout rates, and despite their best efforts, they cannot compete without some sort of additional State aid. If we were to turn our backs and leave these districts to their own problems, we would quickly find ourselves dealing with a regional educational crisis that would be much harder to address.”
The bill, S-2558, will create a new category of State aid for school districts that fit certain criteria. The additional aid will 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.
“The criteria we’ve set prove that this isn’t just a give-back to districts that don’t need the additional assistance,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “These are school districts that have felt the regional effects of economic instability that led to their sister cities and towns being designated as Abbotts. We need to give these school districts the tools necessary so that they can avoid that fate themselves.”
The bill will 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 will 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 was approved by both the Senate and Assembly last week.