(TRENTON) – Assemblywomen Mila M. Jasey and Bonnie Watson Coleman on Monday said the failure of the newly approved 2 percent cap on property taxes to account for special education costs will hurt New Jersey children with special needs.
The cap includes four exemptions – capital expenditures and debt service, pension benefits, health benefits and expenses incurred in connection with a state of emergency – but fails to provide one for special education resources.
“Our society has come a long way when it comes to educating children with special needs and treating them with respect,” said Jasey (D-Essex). “Children who require special education have as much of a civil right to a quality education as anyone else, but the progress we’ve made is at risk. In some form, this needs to be fixed to take into account special education costs.”
“This is an issue we clearly need to address,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “The last thing anyone wants to see are school districts having to resort to campaigning to convince voters to educate children with disabilities. That will just pit neighbor against neighbor and parent against parent, and that’s a terrible scenario.”
Jasey and Watson Coleman vowed to look into what legislative action could be undertaken to address the issue of special education costs.
“This is an equity issue,” Jasey said. “We all want to control property taxes, but we also want to make sure every child gets the quality education they deserve to make a brighter future possible. Much like the other exemptions, special education costs are beyond a district’s control, and I don’t want to see the education given to children with special needs compromised.”
“Combating property taxes is a top priority, but so is educating all children and protecting our most vulnerable,” Watson Coleman said. “We cannot sit back and watch the education of children with special needs be eroded when we can do something reasonable to ensure that doesn’t happen. And this is also just one of many areas we will need to address to ensure local governments and schools have the capacity to adequately educate children and provide public safety.”
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