New Jersey's legislative leaders said Wednesday that they had agreed on a school-funding plan for the coming year, reaching a compromise on a source of budget drama, though not resolving the state's long-running funding woes.
It was not immediately clear whether Gov. Christie, who can veto spending from the budget, supported the deal announced Wednesday evening by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson). They said the agreement would send additional money to underfunded schools in 2017-18, in part by stripping some aid from schools receiving more state money than the funding formula provides.
But the agreement is not a complete fix. While Sweeney and Prieto would provide an additional $146 million to underfunded districts, officials say the state's formula is at least $1 billion underfunded.
And while Sweeney had been pressing to phase out so-called adjustment aid — given to districts to ensure that they would not receive less money under the 2008 funding formula, but intended to be temporary — the deal announced Wednesday would shift just a portion of it.
In the statement, Sweeney called the agreement a "landmark first step toward restoring fairness to the School Funding Reform Act for schoolchildren and taxpayers" that would help fast-growing districts.
In addition to sending the $146 million to underfunded schools, Sweeney and Prieto said they agreed to spend an additional $25 million to expand preschool programs.
A spokesman for Christie did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Republican governor has urged lawmakers to change the state's school-funding system. But his proposal — which failed to gain traction last year — focused on shifting aid from urban to suburban districts, not increasing spending.
Christie can exercise a line-item veto on spending in the state budget. Lawmakers must pass a budget by June 30 for the coming fiscal year.
Sweeney and Prieto did not spell out which districts would receive more funding under their plan, although Sweeney mentioned Kingsway Regional School District in Gloucester County, which has been pressing for aid, and Chesterfield School District in Burlington County.
They also did not specify which districts would receive less. Of the $146 million, $46 million would come from districts that receive adjustment aid above what they are owed by the state.
Cuts to districts would be capped at 1.5 percent of their school budgets, according to Sweeney and Prieto.
Sweeney earlier this year threatened to shut down state government over school funding, pushing for long-term changes to a system that he argued was not just underfunded but unbalanced. Along with increasing funding by $500 million over five years, Sweeney proposed eliminating adjustment aid, which amounts to about $545 million, according to his office.
But Prieto had resisted cutting aid, saying last month that it would be "very difficult to take any money away" from districts, which had already set their budgets for the coming year.