Education is the most important thing in our democracy and has been one of my major focuses since coming to the Legislature. I visited early childhood programs and schools across my district, and the most repeated concerns were (1) the need for an expanded preschool program and (2) addressing underfunding issues.
It’s unfair to schoolchildren in a district like South River, who must deal with slashing to staff and spending, so that districts with declining enrollment or rising property wealth can receive more. And it’s unfair to taxpayers in South River to have to pay more so that taxpayers in over-aided districts pay less. A quality education can only occur when we adequately fund our public schools.
That was why I was part of the landmark first step toward school funding fairness that will help guarantee a “thorough and efficient” education for all schoolchildren in Middlesex County. The state budget I fought for this year provides $131 million in additional aid to underfunded districts, including an additional $278,000 for the South River school district this year alone.
The state budget also adds $25 million for preschool expansion and $25 million in increased funding for Extraordinary Special Education Aid across our state. This budget keeps faith with the many parents, students, educators and school officials in South River who have reached out to me asking for a formula that is funded fairly.
This is about what’s best for the children of New Jersey. The status quo is no longer acceptable. With this budget, we brought help to both taxpayers and school districts most in need; it does all the right things: provide immediate help, sets the stage for fair adjustments in the future, and invests in our young children by expanding preschool.
Partnering with our local officials is hugely important with matters like this and since January, the dialogue between South River, and me and my colleagues representing you in the stage legislature has expanded drastically. Myself, along with my team in the Assembly are making decisions that puts South River on a better path. We will keep fighting to drive South River forward.