Teachers tell Sen. Steve Sweeney schools statewide are underfunded

New Jersey educators told Senate President Steve Sweeney Thursday that they are struggling with underfunding.

District leaders from all over the state came to Middlesex County College to tell legislators about the changes they would like to see in school funding.

New Brunswick school superintendent Dr. Aubrey Johnson said that 15 percent of the students in his district have limited English skills while another 15 percent are special-needs students.

"Our population, we really do need to work with them and meet their needs, and if we don't have the funding it's kind of tough," he said.

The issue of school funding has been on hold in the Legislature for years. And two money directors that were supposed to be temporary are still in effect.

One of the directors is an enrollment cap, which keeps funding at a certain level for a school even if enrollment increases. The other director is called hold-harmless aid. This director was given to certain districts with funding levels set to decease. The extra money was supposed to ease them into losing funds.

"It's just been a situation over the last nine years where no one has been forced to adjust to the realities the districts are facing," said Newton Public School Superintendent Dr. G. Kennedy Greene.

Sweeney has been pushing to get back the original funding formula and do away with the directors. But he has been facing some backlash from those who do not want to lose the extra money.

"If you're funded at 200 percent, well you know that's not right and it's not fair to others so this isn't pitting anyone against each other," Sweeney said. "This is us in it together to fix it once and for all."

The next Senate hearing on school funding is expected to be held Feb. 9 in Newark.

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