Would more school districts merge if given the right incentives?
It’s been talked about for years but now a new push is being made to encourage K-12 school district regionalization to save New Jersey taxpayers money.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, has introduced a measure that’s designed to let school districts explore, without cost, the idea of joining together with other districts, or even forming a county school.
The legislation is designed to simplify the process of consolidating smaller districts, while offering financial incentives to districts that study and implement a regionalization model.
“What we’re trying to do is reduce administrative staff so that we get to the best price for the best education," said Sweeney. “When you reduce costs, it’s either raising less or cutting the amount of money you’re taking from the taxpayers. We can do it cheaper, we can do it better, and we can ensure the quality of the education — and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Sweeney said one incentive would be offered to school districts facing a loss of state aid because of declining enrollment if they agree to join a regionalized district.
School districts receiving additional state aid if they joined a regionalized district would not lose any of their increased funding.
“When you have a regional high school that has five high schools sending to it, you don’t need the administrations of all those other schools," he said. "You’re going to have your same teachers in a school, you’re just not going to have the administration, and that is a big cost-saver.”
State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R- Monmouth, said the legislation is crafted in a way to make regionalization as attractive as possible without forcing anybody to do anything.
“We’ve gone in and tried to apply a bunch of common sense solutions to hurdles that have plagued sensible regionalization efforts over the past 20 years,” he said. “This should really revolutionize the world of regionalization without threatening anyone.”
State Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, is also a prime sponsor of the legislation.