TRENTON, N.J. — Carrying on the work of the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer, newly seated Assemblyman Alex Sauickie has taken up many of his predecessor’s bills that address the devastating effects of school funding losses under the funding formula law known as S2.
“‘Loss’ is a word that should never be used in the same sentence with ‘our children’s education.’ Whether it’s loss from a flawed funding formula, or loss from government-forced school lockdowns, it’s imperative for education advocates to fix it,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “Ron fought for that, and I will continue that fight.”
The S2 school funding formula, signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018, was touted as balancing supposed inequities in how state aid was distributed, sending more money to underfunded districts while slashing aid to overfunded ones.
Nine out of the 17 school districts Sauickie represents had their state aid cut by a total of $17 million for the 2022-23 school year. For instance, Jackson schools lost $4.6 million in state aid. Those schools are among the 189 districts statewide that had their aid cut under S2.
“If schools now have to cut staff, cut classes, and cut extracurriculars, that suggests to me they weren’t overfunded,” Sauickie added. “Maybe the governor’s math is wrong.”
The centerpiece of his omnibus bill package is a bill (A3893) he’s cosponsoring that allows school districts to receive state aid equal to what they received last school year.
Other bills in the package:
— permit school district capital reserve account funds to be transferred to the general fund to offset state aid cuts (A2989);
— allow school districts to increase their enrollment in the interdistrict public school choice program to offset state aid cuts (A3005);
— create a school funding commission to study and report back on creating a new funding formula (A3686); and
— allow Jackson, Lakewood, Howell, Toms River, Brick, and Manchester school districts to form a three-year, nonpublic school student transportation pilot program to tackle escalating busing costs (A4461).
“I won’t mince words. We need to do better for all New Jersey students, teachers and property tax payers,” Sauickie said. “If this funding formula is called fair, then those people don’t know what fair means. Perhaps they should consult a dictionary.”