Legislation Introduced To Restore Severe School Aid Cuts

State aid cuts enacted under the school funding formula known as S2 have devastated dozens of districts across the state, Assemblymen Alex Sauickie and Paul Kanitra say. A bill they introduced Monday aims to restore that aid by appropriating $210.1 million to disburse to schools that previously received supplemental stabilization aid for their 2023-24 budgets.

Since 2018, hundreds of the state’s 593 school districts have faced cuts because under S2 they were considered overfunded. Jackson schools, part of Sauickie’s 12th Legislative District and just one of 16 school districts he represents, have lost $22.4 million in aid, leading to cuts of 214 positions, sports teams, AP classes and electives. The district was forced to take a $10 million loan from the state, and pay a state monitor, to close budget gaps. The district needs $30 million to close its budget gap for the 2024-25 school year, but was informed April 10 that no districts will be allowed to seek loans before submitting a budget making up for state aid cuts by slashing even more programs and personnel.

“Students in my district have faced overcrowded classrooms and cuts to academic and extracurricular activities year after year,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “It’s past time to admit the failure of this school funding formula and restore what’s been lost to ensure our students have the finest education New Jersey has been known for. It’s not too late to reverse the damage done, but that day is coming.”

In Kanitra’s 10th Legislative District, which encompasses 17 school districts, schools have lost $60 million in state aid since 2018.  Six districts—including Brick and Toms River, which have each lost almost 60% of their state aid—sued the state for details of the funding formula and won their case, but have not received a full accounting from the state. Toms River is facing a $26.5 million fiscal cliff; Brick schools have a $6 million budget gap for 2024-25 and will likely have to cut another 30 positions.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here. Maybe program and staffing cuts that increase classroom sizes and decrease opportunities for students indicate that these schools weren’t actually ever overfunded,” Kanitra (R-Ocean) said. “It’s time to restore what was clearly, wrongly taken from these students.”

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