ELC SPELLS-OUT LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES TO STRENGTHEN NJ PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Trenton, NJ, February 1, 2010
ELC is calling on the NJ Legislature to redouble efforts to advance the state’s historic gains in education equity, identifying the four most pressing challenges of the coming year.
These are: fair school funding, effective school reform, preschool expansion, and school construction.
ELC Executive Director David Sciarra presented this agenda for reform and renewal of NJ’s public schools at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee on February 1st.
In prepared remarks to the Committee, Mr. Sciarra spelled out the challenges for the Legislature in each area.
Fair School Funding
The Legislature is legally obligated to fully fund our new funding formula, the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). ELC estimates an increase of $60 million in new state aid will be required, which will go mainly to moderate and middle income school districts.
In addition to full formula funding, the Commissioner is legally obligated in 2010 to study and assess the impact the formula, particularly on high needs districts, students in poverty, students with disabilities and other special needs. The Legislature must then by law sign off on the Commissioner’s review by next November.
Effective School Reform
A new framework for school level reform in high needs districts is urgently needed, particularly since the Department of Education let lapse prior reform efforts. It is essential that a new initiative be developed that will ensure funding is effectively used to advance quality instruction and outcomes in low performing district and charter schools.
High Quality Preschool
The nationally recognized Abbott preschool program in urban districts must be sustained and strengthened, while expansion to another 82 high poverty districts should begin, as required under the SFRA formula.
The Legislature must ensure the Schools Development Authority secures a new round of bond financing to move projects in the pre-development pipeline to construction and completion, and to continue efforts to improve management of the construction program.
Mr. Sciarra noted the tremendous gains in educational equity achieved by New Jersey after a decade of effort, as compared to other states and the nation. “But we cannot rest on past accomplishments until every student has access to a high quality public education,” he added. “It is my hope that legislators can remain focused in the year ahead on the hard work of reaching this goal.”
Education Law Center Press Contact:
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