TOMS RIVER, NJ – An emergency school funding bill is being criticized as election time political theater by a prominent North Jersey legislator. A bill introduced by Monmouth County Democrat Vin Gopal seeks to ‘restore’ school funding to districts decimated by Governor Phil Murphy, but leaves tens of thousands of students, teachers and school districts severely underfunded heading into the 2023-24 school year.
The bill, according to a prominent member of the state legislature is nothing more than election hijinks being played by Gopal and his close political ally, Governor Phil Murphy.
The big winner in the new bill is not the Jersey Shore, but the Jersey City School District which is receiving the lion’s share of the $102 million in new funding.
“There is no reason for the Murphy administration to cut funding to any school district when the state has a massive $10 billion budget surplus,” State Senator Steven Oroho said.
Oroho said the Gopal bill being touted by the media and some shore Republicans as a victory falls short of that. He described it as an election-year scam.
“We support the partial restoration of funding that has been proposed but remain concerned that it is a one-year solution to a long-term problem,” Oroho said. “Unless we change the school funding formula permanently, school districts will lose the temporarily restored money next year and face even deeper cuts in state aid. We need a school funding solution that looks further than Election Day this year.”
Today, Governor Phil Murphy touted the agreement as ‘historic’, despite Gopal bill being only a one-year fix that will be compounded next year as schools will face even more funding cuts at the hands of Murphy’s proprietary S2 funding formula.
“My Administration remains committed to providing New Jersey students with a world-class education, which is why we continue to dedicate historic levels of aid for our schools in each year’s budget,” said Governor Murphy. “As we work towards ensuring equitable access to the high-quality education every student deserves, this supplemental funding will support districts in adjusting to changes in aid under our state’s school funding formula. I thank our legislative partners for their collaboration in reaching this agreement on behalf of educators, students, and their communities in the upcoming school year.”
The Gopal bill still leaves Jersey Shore schools 45% underfunded for 2023-24, forcing many districts to continue planning for staffing cuts or budget ballot referendums.
The largest chunk of the $102 million funding plan will go to the Jersey City School District, which will receive $33,000,000 in additional school funding.
Combined, the five largest school districts in Ocean County are getting a fraction of what Jersey City is getting.
Brick, Toms River, Jackson, Lakewood, and Lacey are receiving just $19,000,000 in additional funding.
Under the Gopal plan. Toms River will still need to make $4.8 million in budget cuts this year, then at leat $14 million in 2024-25.
Jackson will still lose $2.1 million this year and faces more than a $6.3 million cut in 2024-25.
Brick Township will lose $800,000 this year and will face up to $2.5 million in cuts next year.
Under the Gopal bill, districts wanting to take the one-shot fix of funds this year will need to show the state how they will address next year’s drastic budget cuts without the need for additional aid.