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General Assembly Advances Bill to Aid School Districts Impacted by State Aid Reductions

Legislation Sponsored by Assembly Democrats Would Create Grant Program and Provide School Districts with Greater Flexibility to Close Funding Gaps

(TRENTON) – School districts facing aid reductions in the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget would have the opportunity to apply for increased funding under legislation approved by the New Jersey General Assembly today. Bill A4161 would provide grants to eligible districts in order to prevent teacher layoffs and cuts to crucial programs.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Roy Freiman and Assemblywomen Mitchelle Drulis, Pamela Lampitt, and Andrea Katz would create a one-time Stabilized School Budget Aid Grant Program within the New Jersey Department of Education and appropriate $71.4 million for the program. Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education would provide an aid grant to an eligible school district that applies to the program after verifying that the school district is subject to an aid reduction in the 2024-2025 school year.

The legislation comes at a key time, as school districts are already submitting tentative budgets to the Department of Education. Finalized budgets must be submitted by May.

“We know that even in the midst of unprecedented school aid and investment in education, many districts are losing state aid,” said Assemblyman Freiman (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “This bill recognizes the need to act swiftly, as some school districts are already working on budgetary decisions. Delays in our response could result in devastating staff cuts being implemented that could otherwise be avoided.”

Under this bill, eligible school districts that saw a reduction in their 2024-2025 State school aid could receive up to two-thirds of the reduced amount. In order to receive the aid, the school district must not reduce the total number of employees compared to the pre-budget year if student enrollment is expected to remain steady.

The legislation also gives options and flexibility to school districts to determine, in certain situations, how they want to further close the financial gap.

“This legislation represents a comprehensive approach to ensuring districts have the funding they need to make smart decisions on the local level,” said Assemblywoman Drulis (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “We must continue to invest in the future of New Jersey families, particularly in the education of our children, ensuring school districts can plan future budgets without compromising the quality of education they deliver.”

“The legislation approved today will allow us to uphold our commitment to quality education for New Jersey’s children, ensuring they have the best educational resources, teachers and staff,” said Assemblywoman Lampitt, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee (D-Camden, Burlington). “We are empowering districts to approach funding challenges at the local level and to make the best decisions for their communities.”

“By investing in our schools we are investing in our future, giving each child access to quality education that will provide a solid foundation for their life ahead,” said Assemblywoman Katz (D-Atlantic, Burlington). “With this bill, we can assist school districts and retain skilled educators and staff, ensuring they possess the necessary resources and support to deliver top-tier education while saving property taxpayers money.”

During recent testimony, representatives from both the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) expressed support for A4161:

“School districts have exhausted all options to make up for the school reduction aid,” said Jonathan Pushman, NJSBA Director of Governmental Relations. “What this bill does is creates a little bit of flexibility and relief for every district that is either experiencing pain in this current budget cycle or which has experienced pain over the last several years. This measure is critical to ensuring all districts are able to continue to providing a high quality education to their students and avoid cuts to critical staff and services. Absent swift action, children will suffer.”

“Many of our members, along with school board members, administrators, and families are experiencing a high degree of stress as districts are faced with cuts to staff and programs if not given the capacity to meet their budgetary needs,” said Deborah Cornavaca, PhD., NJEA Director of Government Relations. “This legislation is trying to address unique circumstances in a fair way and balance the limited additional dollars that we have and give them to the districts that need them the most while asking them to step up.”