The formula to distribute school aid to districts throughout the state has been debated and there have been disagreements even among members of the same political party. Republican Sen. Michael Doherty said he has different priorities than Gov. Chris Christie when it comes to education funding. The senator sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss what his priorities are and his plan to make the system fairer.
Doherty wants to address abuse of the state lunch program and how officials have been found to artificially lower real estate values to get school aid money.
“This is the kind of fraud that needs to be addressed immediately,” Doherty said. “I don’t think we can wait six months, a year.”
Aside from fraud, Doherty thinks the funding formula is flawed because of the discrepancies between municipalities. For example, he said Montville Township residents pay $2,500 in income tax per person and get $300 per student for school aid while Asbury Park citizens pay about $326 per resident in income tax and receive almost $25,000 per student in state aid. Doherty wants to take the pot of income tax money, which he said is a progressive tax that takes more from the wealthy, and divide it evenly among all students in the state.
He said his plan would be more closely follow the state constitution, which “has a section that says the school funds should be annually appropriated equally for the benefit of all residents in the state.”
Doherty added that his suggestion would reduce property taxes for 85 percent of the school districts in the state. “That’s about 80 percent of our folks,” he said.