NJEA’s officers released this statement today, ahead of a hearing by the Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness, chaired by Senate President Steve Sweeney. The hearing will be held in Woolwich Twp., in Sweeney’s home district (LD3). NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller will attend the hearing.
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer called on the Legislature to reject Sweeney’s approach and instead fund the existing formula without taking current resources away from any district:
“New Jersey’s formula, SFRA, is a national model of progressive education funding. Properly funded, it will provide every student in New Jersey with the resources necessary to learn and thrive. Properly funded, there are no losers, because every district and every student will have enough. If we took common sense steps like fully funding schools instead of giving out $8 billion in corporate subsidies, we would be much closer to a solution.
“That’s not what Sen. Sweeney is proposing. His plan would lead to immediate, huge cuts for certain districts, depriving their students of vital resources and closing the door on opportunities they deserve. We must protect and support every New Jersey student. That requires redoubling our commitment to funding SFRA without pulling the rug out from under any districts in the process.
“We need a serious conversation in New Jersey about how to return to responsible school funding practices under SFRA. But while the conversation takes place, we must not make any New Jersey student pay the price for Sweeney and Christie’s years of neglect.”
NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan challenged Sweeney’s record on school funding:
“Steve Sweeney has been senate president for seven years and has allowed widespread neglect of our public schools during that entire time. Under his presidency, New Jersey’s progressive school funding formula has been underfunded by nearly $8 billion. Now he is going around the state telling people that the best way to fix the problem he helped create is to take money from students in some districts to help make up for the shortfall faced by other districts.
“He’s completely wrong about that. He should not be pitting communities and students against each other in a competition for inadequate state school aid. He should not be deciding which students get a little bit more and which have to make do with even less. The reason we have a school funding formula is so that politicians don’t get to pick winners and losers in every budget cycle.”
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean Spiller noted that Sweeney and Christie have made special accommodations for charter schools to ensure that their funding is protected and their students are held harmless, and asked why students in district-run schools are not being afforded the same consideration:
“Sen. Sweeney and Gov. Christie have provided special protection to New Jersey’s charter schools, taking specific budgetary action to hold them harmless even as district schools have suffered from chronic underfunding. Every New Jersey student deserves the same consideration they have offered to those in charter schools.
“We cannot address the question of school funding without acknowledging and dealing with the effect that charter schools have had on the budgets of their sending districts. We must address existing inequities and get political considerations out of the annual budget discussions.”