Doherty Proposes Equal School Funding at Town Hall Meeting
Resolution would change how state contributes to education.
State Sen. Michael Doherty brought his message of change to Madison Tuesday evening, presenting his proposal for equal school funding for all New Jersey students.
During a joint Town Hall meeting of the Borough and the Board of Education, Doherty outlined what he said are problems with the current state funding formula, which funnels millions of dollars to poorer school districts, known as Abbott districts.
Doherty explained that the current formula is disproportionately skewed in favor of the Abbott districts, which garner more funding because of certain variables such as being At Risk, Limited in English Proficiency, geographic location, and Equalization Aid.
According to Doherty, a report by the New Jersey State Auditor found that 37% of students receiving At Risk designation were actually ineligible, and concluded that the At Risk designation should not be used in determining government assistance or state aid.
Equalization, said Doherty, is often a corrupt process “where urban power brokers have manipulated the system.” In urban areas, tax abatements have enabled district officials to report lower real estate values to the state, yet receive more school aid from the government, according to Doherty.
Doherty compared Madison Borough to Asbury Park, an Abbott district. “After Madison sent in 10 times as much income tax per resident, we see that Madison gets $349,000 for the entire school system or $153 per student. Conversely, Asbury Park is getting about $55 million, or $23,750 per student.”
Madison schools received $1.6 million in state aid in the budget year 2009-10, and zero in 2010-11. State aid totaled $349,346 for 2011-12.
Several attendees voiced their support for the resolution. Others objected, citing that the poorer Abbott districts need more school aid than wealthier suburban districts, while others requested more information on how money is being spent in these districts.
Doherty formally proposed the resolution to the State Budget Committee on June 27, but the proposal was tabled, according to Doherty. “There was a lot of hiding as far as I see it,” said Doherty. “They [legislators] don’t want to address it.” Doherty said that members of the Budget Committee would all get more money with this resolution and he has no idea why they are not supporting it."
Doherty said he sent letters to 180 school districts which receive a dime or less for every tax dollar sent to Trenton. Madison receives $.01 for every tax dollar sent to Trenton, according to Doherty.
Doherty urged the public to view his presentation at www.fairschoolfunding.com, and send emails to friends and neighbors about this issue. “This is truly an education issue. I believe when we educate the people of New Jersey and the Legislature we will see an improvement,” Doherty said.