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Senate Budget Panel Approves Sacco/ Doria Measure To Strengthen Near-Abbott Districts

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 Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.

“Just because a school district is not labeled an ‘Abbott’ district doesn’t mean it is free from the economic and social challenges that Abbott districts face,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen. “Those districts with Abbott neighbors often share more than just borders – they also share low income levels, high student mobility rates and the need to provide more social services like free lunches. This bill will help provide those districts with the resources they need to address these challenges and 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.

“Many of these districts are only hanging on by a thread, and without additional State aid, could topple into Abbott status themselves,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson. “Funding is not necessarily as black and white as the current Abbott system suggests, and we need to recognize that there are shades of grey between the wealthiest school districts and Abbotts. We need to do a better job in providing assistance to the school districts in the grey areas, to avoid letting economic disadvantage 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 passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a party-line vote of 9-6. It now goes to the full Senate for approval.

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