District 24 lawmakers blast Murphy's state aid cut

| 23 Mar 2020 | 11:19

    Senator Steven Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all R-24) reacted to news that Governor Murphy’s proposed budget includes a dramatic decrease in state aid to schools within the 24th Legislative District.

    District 24, which includes towns in Sussex, Warren and Morris Counties, is slated to lose $8,597,764 in State school aid next school year under Governor Murphy’s proposed budget, according to documentation released by the State Department of Education. This comes on the heels of Murphy and the Democrat legislature slashing funding to school districts by over $5.5 million the previous year.

    “For years, we have been sounding the alarm about the dire need to fix New Jersey’s terribly flawed school funding formula,” Oroho said. “Regretfully, any funding scenario that formularizes the Abbott mandates which translates into two-thirds of all State aid going to a handful of urban school districts will always be flawed no matter how you run numbers. The unfair treatment of suburban and rural districts is baked in to the formula. Our students and our taxpayers deserve better treatment, and we will continue to fight for them until we get a school funding formula that treats every student equally.”

    Murphy’s budget increases state spending to historic levels. At $40.85 billion, spending is 5 percent higher than FY 2020 and 18 percent higher than when Murphy took office.

    “How can Governor Murphy in good conscience ask our property taxpayers to pay even more to make up for these cuts in one breath and promise to pay for free college tuition in the next? It’s a travesty,” Space added. “We have regularly been in contact with our school districts and advocating on their behalf, and we applaud their joining together to vigorously protest these cuts with us.”

    In 2018, Oroho, Space and Wirths voted against the changes (S-2) to the school funding formula which resulted in the aid cuts. The funding cuts to local school districts when the formula change is fully phased in over the next six years will total $40 million less annually.

    “The administration claims it is committed to serving the needs of all New Jersey school children. That is not the reality in our district,” Wirths added. “Time and time again, our taxpayers have been asked to pay more out of their own pockets to fund Governor Murphy’s progressive agenda. It is completely unfair. Every child should have the same opportunity to get a great education, regardless of where they live. The time has come for this Legislature to take a hard look at the formula and come up with a solution that ensures all children and taxpayers are treated fairly and equally.”

    The legislators are encouraging taxpayers, students, school districts, and educational professionals to join with them in opposing these draconian cuts. The legislators have been working closely with school districts since funding changes were initially contemplated in 2017. Fortunately, the District 24 legislators working with then-Governor Christie were able to restore funds that were slated to be taken away by legislative Democrats in the FY ’18 State Budget.

    “Since Governor Murphy has taken office, there has been an unending assault on our school districts,” noted Space. “The governor speaks of ‘tax fairness,’ but there’s nothing fair about ripping resources away from one school district and handing it to another. That increases the local property tax burden, and does nothing to cure the underlying problem of a flawed school funding formula.”

    One change the legislators advocated for last year and which was ultimately added into the budget was a commitment to have the State start to assume the costs of extraordinary special education that strap local school districts. This change will help all school districts.

    “$50 million was dedicated last year for extraordinary special education aid and it was supposed to go up another $50 million each year until we reach full funding, approximately $200 million a year,” said Oroho. “But by all accounts, that important funding for our most vulnerable has been held flat.”

    “Governor Murphy’s pursuit of a progressive fiscal agenda has and will continue to drive up our taxes, and his aid cuts to our schools will only increase property taxes, so there’s no rest for the tax weary in New Jersey, especially in our local communities,” reiterated Wirths. “I find it unconscionable that the State can find money to fund college for illegal immigrants and pay for their legal bills in front of federal officials, but we can’t provide adequate funds to afford all K-12 students a quality education. I hope our school personnel as well as taxpayers rise up and join with us to say ‘enough is enough.’”