SENATE, No. 3403

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

221st LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED JUNE 6, 2024

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  CARMEN F. AMATO, JR.

District 9 (Ocean)

Senator  OWEN HENRY

District 12 (Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Provides supplemental appropriation to ensure certain school districts receive additional amounts of special education categorical, security categorical, and transportation aids.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning State school aid to certain school districts.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  a.  Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-43 et al.), P.L.2018, c.67 (C.18A:7F-67 et al.), or of any other law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, there are appropriated from the Property Tax Relief Fund such amounts as are necessary to ensure that the amounts of each special education categorical aid, security categorical aid, and transportation aid provided to a school district in the 2024-2025 school year are equal to the amounts that are calculated for the 2024-2025 school year in accordance with sections 13, 14, and 15 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-55, C.18A:7F-56, and C.18A:7F-57); provided, however, that a school district shall only be eligible to receive additional aid pursuant to this section if the district:

     (1)  experienced a reduction in State school aid pursuant to the provisions of P.L.2018, c.67 (C.18A:7F-67 et al.) in both the 2023-2024 school year and the 2024-2025 school year; and

     (2)  is spending below adequacy in the 2024-2025 school year pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2018, c.67 (C.18A:7F-70).

     b.  A school district eligible for additional aid pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall only receive this aid if the amounts of special education categorical aid, security categorical aid, or transportation aid, as calculated pursuant to P.L.2018, c.67 (C.18A:7F-67 et al.) for the 2024-2025 school year, are less than the amounts calculated in accordance with  sections 13, 14, and 15 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-55, C.18A:7F-56, and C.18A:7F-57). 

     c.  Aid provided pursuant to this section shall be in addition to the amount of State school aid calculated for the 2024-2025 school year pursuant to P.L.2018, c.67 (C.18A:7F-67 et al.) and any amounts allocated to a school district pursuant to P.L.2024, c.13. 

 

     2. This act shall take effect immediately. 

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill provides additional aid to certain school districts that have allocations of special education categorical aid, security categorical aid, or transportation aid that are less than those provided under the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008.”  To be eligible for the aid provided by the bill, a school district is required to have experienced a State school formula aid reduction in the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years and be spending below adequacy.  Under current law, a school district is spending below adequacy if its prior year spending (defined as the sum of equalization aid, special education categorical aid, security categorical aid, and the local general fund tax levy) is less than its projected adequacy spending for the budget year (defined as the sum of the adequacy budget, special education categorical aid, and security categorical aid). 

     P.L.2018, c.67 (commonly referred to as “S2”) was enacted to realign the amount of State aid provided to school districts with current needs and to move toward fully implementing the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 as originally enacted.  In doing so, S2 established a schedule for the reallocation of State aid from school districts deemed “overfunded” under that law to those deemed “underfunded.”  This schedule primarily applies to State school aid allocated from the 2019-2020 school year through the 2024-2025 school year.  In realigning State aid over this time period, however, S2 resulted in many school districts receiving allocations of individual aid categories that are less than those calculated under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.

     This bill would provide additional aid in the 2024-2025 school year to ensure that eligible school districts receive the amount of special education categorical aid, security categorical aid, or transportation aid as calculated under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. 

     It is the sponsor’s intent to provide reasonable, temporary assistance to allow certain school districts spending below adequacy to avoid catastrophic budget cuts due to the loss of State aid for the 2024-2025 school year.  The sponsor believes a permanent solution to State school aid inequities, and the resulting harm to students’ education, is necessary but not within reach in time for the next school year. 

     The adequacy budget is determined by law to be the amount necessary to ensure a constitutionally required thorough and efficient education, and this bill applies to school districts that are otherwise spending below the sum of that amount and the district’s amount of categorical aids for special education and security.  The sponsor therefore believes this bill is necessary to avoid detrimental effects on students’ educational quality that could result in depriving students of their constitutional rights.

     Twice in the past two years, the Legislature has implicitly recognized the inadequacy of the existing State school aid system by passing legislation to provide some form of relief to school districts facing massive State aid reductions.  This legislation includes P.L.2024, c.13, which appropriates $44.7 million to establish a Stabilized School Budget Aid Grant Program to restore 45 percent of State school aid reductions and permits certain school districts to exceed the tax levy growth limitation in the 2024-2025 school year.  The Legislature also enacted P.L.2023, c.32, which

provided additional State school aid to certain school districts and appropriated $103.0 million.  That law restored two-thirds of the proposed State aid reductions to school districts.  The sponsor believes this bill is consistent with the intentions of these enactments.