Resolution Protects At-Risk Children; Gives Administration 30 Days to Redo Report
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Bonnie Watson Coleman, Gary S. Schaer, Benjie E. Wimberly and L. Grace Spencer sponsored rejecting Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed school funding changes targeting at-risk, bilingual and special education students was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
The concurrent resolution (ACR-172) notifies Christie that the Legislature objects to recommendations included in his administration’s Educational Adequacy Report that could sharply reduce funding for at-risk children. The overdue report was finally delivered in December.
The report recommended that the school funding law be modified to decrease the additional weights for students who are at-risk, bilingual education students and those who are both at-risk and bilingual education students.
“These careless recommendations are not based on any research of the school funding level necessary to achieve state standards, as required under the law or as expected by the Supreme Court,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “These recommendations appear to be based more on conservative slash-and-burn ideology than on academic findings. That’s completely unacceptable to Democrats who hold dear our obligation to fight for a quality education for vulnerable children.”
“These recommendations are not supported by any research or analysis demonstrating the school funding law has provided schools with more resources than required to provide for the needs of these students,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “In the absence of substantive analysis, the weights for at-risk and bilingual children and the extraordinary special education aid thresholds should remain the same as those established under the school funding law when enacted. We will not let the governor blast away at the efforts to help our most at-risk children succeed.”
“The current law is designed to determine school funding based on extensive analysis of the cost of delivering a quality education to all students, including low-income students wherever they live in New Jersey, but these recommendations seem designed solely to sharply reduce funding available to at-risk children,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Saving money is vital, but this proposal seems motivated by an ideological desire to slash without any regard to the implications for at-risk children. That cannot be allowed to stand.”
“The Democratic Legislature is not going to stand for arbitrary funding cuts to at-risk children,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “The Christie administration’s proposal appears to be devoid of any necessary research and analysis, nor has the department provided any type of summary of comments or recommendations provided by those who helped put together this report. This report would not receive a passing grade, so the administration must try again, this time keeping at-risk children in mind.”
The concurrent resolution – which requires no action by the governor – directs the Commissioner of Education to submit a revised report to the Legislature that responds to these objections no later than 30 days after a copy is transmitted to the governor and the commissioner, or before the transmittal of the governor’s budget message to the Legislature, whichever occurs first.
The resolution was released 8-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing.