Educators decry N.J. school funding levels proposed by Murphy as insufficient

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy addresses a gathering as he unveils his 2019 budget Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in the Assembly chamber of the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Some of the first-term Democratic governor's proposals are to raise the state sales tax and extend its reach, hike income taxes on the wealthy and legalize recreational marijuana. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy addresses a gathering as he unveils his 2019 budget Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in the Assembly chamber of the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Some of the first-term Democratic governor's proposals are to raise the state sales tax and extend its reach, hike income taxes on the wealthy and legalize recreational marijuana. (Mel Evans/AP Photo)

As New Jersey lawmakers continue hearings on Gov. Phil Murphy’s state budget plan, there are indications they’ll be making some changes in his proposed school funding.

Amy Jablonski, a school board member in Chesterfield, said the level of funding Murphy’s budget provides for that Burlington County school district is “a punch to the gut.”

“An increase of $41,000 for Chesterfield, while districts that have already been superfunded for a decade got increases, is not what ensures that New Jersey is fairer or stronger,” said Jablonski, breaking down into tears. “I voted for him, and he let me down. And, most importantly, he let my kids down.”

Kingsway School District Superintendent James Lavendar said it’s troubling that his underfunded district in Gloucester County would get only a small increase in state aid while districts with declining student enrollment also get increases.

“This is no stronger and fairer New Jersey. I’ll tell you that right now,” he said Wednesday. “And I’m more disappointed in this governor — who I voted for and I supported — I’m more disappointed in him in his first state budget address than I am in the eight years of Chris Christie and his draconian school policy, because that’s what I expected from that administration.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney assured educators that lawmakers will be able to amend the budget plan. And Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also said he expects changes to fix school funding inequities.

“I think the governor has recognized in conversations with us that we need to fix this over the next couple of weeks,” said Sarlo, D-Bergen. “And I’m confident that the governor will work with us and the legislature to get this done right.”

Sen. Sam Thompson, R-Middlesex, also anticipates some revisions in school aid distribution.

“This is totally unacceptable that districts so underfunded would be getting such a tiny little bit, while districts that are receiving 200 percent of what they’re entitled to are also getting increases,” he said. “That just will not fly. I think we’re going to work to get that remedied before this budget gets passed.”

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