Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has released a school funding plan that addresses the urgent need for additional funding in certain high-growth and other severely underfunded districts while protecting at least current funding levels for students in all other districts. In contrast to a plan floated by Senate President Steve Sweeney, which would take critically important resources from students in some districts in order to provide relief in other districts, the Prieto plan recognizes and respects the need to help all New Jersey students.
NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer praised Prieto’s approach. “Speaker Prieto gets it,” said Steinhauer. “He knows that the ad hoc approach New Jersey has been using for years is unfair and unsustainable. But he also understands that politicians in Trenton shouldn’t punish students in some districts to make up for the shortfalls in other districts. His approach puts policy ahead of politics and will get New Jersey back on track to full, fair funding.”
NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan also stated her strong support for Prieto’s approach. “No student in New Jersey is responsible for the school funding crisis we face, and no student should have resources snatched away in order to fix that crisis,” Blistan declared. “Speaker Prieto understands the problem, and he knows that there are no easy solutions. Instead of making empty promises, he is offering a smart, sustainable solution that calls on all of us to work together instead of pitting us against each other.”
Blistan also highlighted the plan’s commitment to providing relief to districts that have been harmed by the current approach to special education funding. “Districts should be not be punished for providing students with the special education resources they need. This approach will bring fairness to districts while continuing to meet the needs of students,” said Blistan, who is also a special education resource center teacher in Washington Township.
In addition to providing relief to districts with rapid enrollment growth and unfunded special education costs, Prieto’s plan recognizes the unique needs of certain districts, including Paterson, facing financial crises of their own. It also provides additional funding for preschool expansion that was promised under SFRA but has stalled due to lack of funding.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller praised Prieto’s plan for addressing those other critical needs. “We need a school funding solution that works for every district, not just a favored few. Speaker Prieto’s commitment to preschool expansion will pay huge dividends to New Jersey down the road by giving more children an academic head start,” Spiller noted. “His commitment to meeting the needs of districts like Paterson, which have been failed by the state for decades, provides some justice for those communities as well. We must keep our focus on the future even as we deal with this crisis in the present. This plan does both.”