Assemblyman Ryan Peters is pushing his own school funding bill in an effort to win back funds Burlington County lost in the school aid formula overhaul Democrats passed last year.
“Last year, Trenton made a decision to redistribute funding to school districts, creating winners and losers and putting our school children in the crosshairs,” Peters said. “While some schools are finally getting the funding they deserve, others are being left out in the cold, staring at a future where they’ll have to undergo massive layoffs and cuts in programs.”
The Assemblyman’s bill would create a 26-member commission to examine how the 2008 School Funding Act should be updated.
The formula Democratic law makers passed last year saw most schools receive more aid, while about a third saw their financial support from the state decrease.
A number of the towns in the eighth legislative district, which Peters represents, fell into the latter category.
Pemberton saw its aid fall by $2.7 million, while Evesham saw a decrease of $924,838, and Lumberton saw a drop of $401,790.
Though, some municipalities did see a sizeable increase to their aid. Hammonton will receive an additional $1.5 million from the state for the coming year, while Pine Hill got $654,776 more than it did last year.
“We currently have a system where nearly half of all state aid goes to only 5 percent of school districts. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve taken a serious look at how we fund our schools,” Peters said. “We owe it to residents to open the process back up to make sure school funding is being distributed equitably in this state.”
Under Peters’ bill, Gov. Phil Murphy would appoint nine of the commission’s members. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin would each get five nominations, and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean would each appoint three.
The final spot would be filled by Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet or his designee.
“The Support Our Students Advocacy Group, consisting of 75 school districts statewide, applauds Assemblyman Peters for his interest and concern in seeing that all school districts in the state of New Jersey are receiving a sufficient level of funding to ensure all students continue to receive the quality education that they deserve and are entitled to in accordance with the state’s mandate for a thorough and efficient education,” Southampton Township Superintendent Michael Harris said.
Southampton lost roughly $110,000 in aid this school year.
It’s not likely Democrats, who hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature and a supermajority in the Assembly will back Peters’ plan, especially not with assembly seats at the top of the ticket.
The eighth legislative district is set to host one of the year’s most competitive Assembly races.
Peters and his running mate, former Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield, face Democrats Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale
Peters won his first term in the Assembly in 2017 by 350 votes. Incumbent Assemblyman Joe Howarth, who lost his primary against Stanfield after being dropped from the ballot over a belief that he tried to join State Sen. Dawn Addiego when she switched parties earlier this year, ran 170 votes ahead of Peters in 2017.
Election day is Nov. 5.
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