Peterson slams Education Department for miscalculating school aid

Peterson slams Education Department for miscalculating school aid

Erik Peterson

CLINTON, N.J. – The Department of Education confirmed using 2018 tax data instead of 2019 to determine 2021’s school funding and made no indication that it would be corrected. Assemblyman Erik Peterson is pushing the Murphy administration to immediately address the error and recalculate school aid.

The seven-year school funding plan the governor signed stipulates that the most recent tax data must be used to calculate school aid.

“What is truly alarming is not only did the administration make a mistake in calculating school aid, but they are seemingly complacent with making such an error,” said Peterson (R-Hunterdon). “Considering nearly 200 school districts across the state could potentially lose $155 million in aid, they should be recalculating the aid immediately. What is not lost on me is that almost all of the cuts in my legislative district were in Hunterdon and Warren Counties where Republicans control the Freeholder board and constitutional offices while Somerset controlled by Democrats saw increases. It is morally reprehensible that a governor would politicize our children’s education. Shameful.”

According to reports, the administration was notified by an education advocate that it made the error in calculating the aid after the governor announced his $41 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 last week.

“It has been more than a week since the governor’s budget address and there has been no word on whether the administration will be fixing their mistake. They should be ashamed. It’s totally unacceptable,” said Peterson.

Gov. Murphy’s $41 billion proposed budget increases spending by $2.2 billion, but underfunds schools by $1.2 billion. Based on the miscalculated school funding, 64 percent of schools would get increases, while the others would remain flat or continue to lose millions in school aid.

“Schoolchildren could be facing program cuts, teachers could be facing layoffs and property taxpayers could be looking at increases if the funding calculation is not rectified. If we are to have any confidence in the competence of this administration, they should apologize and fix this critical error,” said Peterson.