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Senate Passes School Accountability Bill

TRENTON – The Senate today gave final approval (35-0) to a bill that would make it easier for local taxpayers to detect when school boards are wasting public money on administrators instead of focusing on the learning needs of children.

It now goes to the Governor’s Office for enactment.

“We want school districts to describe their spending plans in language regular people can understand,” said Senator Joseph V. Doria Jr., a prime sponsor of the bill, S-4/A-5. “You shouldn’t have to be a CPA (certified public accountant) to figure out how your school board wants to spend your money.”

The bill would require the State Department of Education to devise a plain language budget summary document that all districts would use to describe their spending plans to local residents.

“We have to root out waste to make sure there’s adequate funding to educate our children,” said Senator John H. Adler, also a co-prime sponsor of the bill.

The bill would implement several key recommendations of the Joint Legislative Committee on Public School Funding Reform of which Senator Adler was Co-Chairman and Senator Doria was a member.

The proposal would require school districts to spell out extra spending in any proposed buyouts of contracts for school superintendents, assistant superintendents and other administrators and would mandate that all details of their pay packages be revealed.

The bill also would require school boards to hold public hearings at least 30 days before acting to renegotiate, extend or amend the terms of a contract for a superintendent, assistant superintendent or school administrator.

While increasing efficiencies in school districts, the bill also would make it easier for the State to appoint a monitor when a district encounters financial problems.

“If the State has the tools to closely monitor spending in local districts, potential problems can be solved before they get out of hand,” Senator Doria said.

The bill also would require school board members to receive training on a regular basis in key areas such as fiscal management, the State monitoring system, school district governance and personnel matters.

In addition, the bill would subject districts whose personnel exceed authorized travel allowances to reductions in State aid.

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