ASSEMBLY CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 131

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

217th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MARCH 7, 2016

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  PATRICK J. DIEGNAN, JR.

District 18 (Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  MILA M. JASEY

District 27 (Essex and Morris)

Senator  M. TERESA RUIZ

District 29 (Essex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblyman Conaway

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Expresses Legislature’s objections to certain recommendations included in Governor’s Educational Adequacy Report.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


A Concurrent Resolution objecting to certain recommendations included in the Governor’s Educational Adequacy Report.

 

Whereas, In 2002, the Department of Education entered into a contract with a nationally recognized consulting firm with extensive expertise in education finance policy to implement the professional judgment panel methodology to determine the cost of providing educational services to all New Jersey students in a manner that is consistent with the State’s standards; and

Whereas, The analysis resulted in, among other things, a base per pupil cost that is considered the funding necessary to educate an elementary school student who does not have any special needs, an at-risk weight that reflects the additional cost associated with educating low-income students, and an LEP weight that represents the additional cost associated with educating a student enrolled in a bilingual education program; and

Whereas, After completing the professional judgment panel analysis, the department issued the “Report on the Cost of Education” in December of 2006 to publicize the results, and subsequently entered into a contract with three nationally recognized experts in education finance policy to review the report’s findings.  The department also conducted a series of public hearings to receive additional input on the report; and

Whereas, In February of 2007, the department publicly released a report that summarized the comments and findings of the three reviewers, and subsequently began a series of meetings with a three-member advisory panel to discuss the final development of a comprehensive school funding formula that could be applied to all school districts; and

Whereas, In December of 2007, the department released a report titled, “A Formula for Success: All Children, All Communities,” which provided the substantive recommendations for a new school funding law.  In the report, the department recommended an additional weight for at-risk students that ranged from 0.47 to 0.57, depending on the percent of students in a district who are low-income.  In making this recommendation, the department noted that the at-risk weights resulting from the professional judgment panel analysis were counterintuitive, since the weight did not systematically increase as the concentration of at-risk students in the district increased.  The department, after consultation with the advisory panel, also recommended an additional LEP weight of 0.50 for bilingual education students, somewhat higher than the weight that resulted from the professional judgment panel analysis.  The department also recommended a weight for combination students, those who are both at-risk and bilingual education students, equal to the sum of the at-risk weight and 0.125; and

Whereas, The “School Funding Reform Act of 2008,” P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-43 et al.), enacted on January 13, 2008, incorporated most of the recommendations included in the department’s December report.  The act also specified that no later than September 1, 2010, and every three years thereafter by September 1, the Governor, after consulting with the Commissioner of Education, is to submit an Educational Adequacy Report to the Legislature.  In the report, the Governor is to propose the base per pupil amount, the weights for grade level, county vocational school districts, at-risk pupils, bilingual pupils, and combination pupils, the cost coefficients for security aid and transportation aid, the State average classification rate for general special education services pupils and for speech-only pupils, the excess cost for general special education services pupils and speech-only pupils, and the extraordinary special education aid thresholds; and

Whereas, In May of 2009, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008” met constitutional muster, and may be applied to the 31 former Abbott districts.  In its decision, the Court noted that the determination of constitutionality was dependent, in reference to the Educational Adequacy Report, “...on the mandated review of the formula’s weights and other operative parts after three years of implementation.”  The Court further stated, “[t]he three year look-back, and the State’s adjustments based on that review, will provide more information about the efficacy of this formula.  There should be no doubt that we would require remediation of any deficiencies of a constitutional dimension, if such problems do emerge”; and

Whereas, On December 14, 2012, the Governor submitted the FY14 Educational Adequacy Report to the Legislature as required by the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008,” recommending adjustments to the base cost, weights and aid amounts in the formula for FY 2014 and the following two years.  The Report recommended a reduction in the weight associated with at-risk students, to a minimum of 0.42 and a maximum of 0.46, a reduction in the weight for bilingual education students to 0.47, and a reduction in the weight for combination students to the sum of the at-risk weight and 0.1052; and

Whereas, The FY14 Report simply stated that the department “recommends utilizing the weights” for at-risk, bilingual education, and combination students based on the resources and inputs “originally described by the panelists in creating the PJP model.”  In recommending these reductions, the Report was devoid of the type of research and analysis of the school funding level necessary to achieve the State’s standards as required by the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008,” or as expected by the Supreme Court in its ruling.  The Report also did not include any new substantive analysis regarding the resources that are necessary to provide educational services to all students consistent with the State’s standards; and

Whereas, The Legislature, on February 14, 2013, passed Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 134 pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-46) objecting to the recommendations included in the Educational Adequacy Report that reduced the weights associated with at-risk students, bilingual education students, and combination students, on the basis that the recommendations are not supported by any research or analysis demonstrating that the use of the higher weights included in the school funding law has provided school districts with more resources than required to provide for the additional educational needs of these students.  The Legislature duly transmitted those objections to the Governor; and

Whereas, Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 134 also expressed the Legislature’s understanding and expectation that the next Educational Adequacy Report would be transmitted to the Legislature no later than September 1, 2015; and

Whereas, On March 1, 2016, the Governor made available to the Legislature the Educational Adequacy Report for FY17 and the following two years; and

Whereas, Similar to the FY14 Report, the FY17 Report recommends a reduction in the weight associated with at-risk students, to a minimum of 0.41 and a maximum of 0.46, a reduction in the weight for bilingual education students to 0.47, and a reduction in the weight for combination students to the sum of the at-risk weight and 0.099.  The only explanation in the FY17 Report for these reductions is the same statement as in the FY14 Report that the “department recommends utilizing the weights based upon the resources originally described by the panelists when creating the PJP model.”  In recommending these reductions, the FY17 Report is also devoid of the type of research and analysis of the school funding level necessary to achieve the State’s standards as required by the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008,” or as expected by the Supreme Court in its ruling.  The FY17 Report does not include any new substantive analysis regarding the resources that are necessary to provide educational services to all students consistent with the State’s standards.  The Report also does not acknowledge that the Legislature, through the adoption of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 134, objected to virtually identical reductions recommended in the FY14 Report; and

Whereas, The Legislature does not object to the recommendations included in the FY17 Report with respect to the base per pupil amount, the weights for grade level and county vocational school districts, the cost coefficients for security aid and transportation aid, the State average classification rate for general special education services pupils and for speech-only pupils, or the excess cost for general special education services pupils and speech-only pupils.  The Legislature does not object to these recommendations because they are based on the use of the most current relevant data available or the application of the consumer price index; and

Whereas, In the absence of more substantive analysis, the Legislature again concludes, as the Legislature did in Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 134, that the weights for at-risk pupils, bilingual pupils, and combination pupils should remain the same as those established under the “School Funding Reform Act of 2008” when enacted; and

Whereas, The “School Funding Reform Act of 2008” stipulated that the Governor should transmit the Educational Adequacy Report to the Legislature no later than September 1, 2010, and no later than September 1 every three years thereafter.  Accordingly, it is the Legislature’s understanding and expectation that the next Educational Adequacy Report will be transmitted to the Legislature no later than September 1, 2018, in accordance with the frequency established in the school funding law; now, therefore,

 

     Be It Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (the Senate concurring):

 

     1.    The Legislature hereby notifies the Governor that it objects to the recommendations included in the FY 2017 Educational Adequacy Report that reduce the weights associated with at-risk students, bilingual education students, and combination students, on the basis that the recommendations are not supported by any research or analysis demonstrating that the use of the higher weights included in the school funding law has provided school districts with more resources than required to provide for the additional educational needs of these students.

 

     2.    Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly or the Secretary of the Senate to the Governor and to the Commissioner of Education.

 

     3.    Notwithstanding the provisions of section 4 of P.L.2007, c.260 (C.18A:7F-46) to the contrary, the Commissioner of Education shall submit a revised report to the Legislature responding to these objections no later than 30 days after a copy of this concurrent resolution is transmitted to the Governor and the commissioner.

 

STATEMENT

 

     This concurrent resolution notifies the Governor that the Legislature objects to specific recommendations included in the Educational Adequacy Report.  The report recommends that the school funding law be modified to decrease the additional weights for students who are at-risk (defined as students who are eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program), bilingual education students, and combination students (defined as those who are both at-risk and bilingual education students).  The Legislature objects to these recommendations because they are not based on any research of the school funding level necessary to achieve the State’s standards, as required under the school funding law or as expected by the New Jersey Supreme Court in its decision.

     This concurrent resolution directs the Commissioner of Education to submit a revised report to the Legislature that responds to these objections no later than 30 days after a copy of the resolution is transmitted to the Governor and the commissioner.