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Republicans in N.J. Assembly Unveil Funding Plan

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The shifting financial fortunes of New Jersey school districts have taken yet another turn with the release by the General Assembly's Republican majority of a funding package that would provide less state aid than what Gov. James J. Florio has proposed.

Although the $3.55-billion package would allocate more money for schools than did an earlier budget released by the Florio administration late last year, the Republican plan is $127 million short of the revised figures that Mr. Florio released in January. (See Education Week, Feb. 12, 1992.)

Compared with Mr. Florio's more recent proposal, the G.O.P. plan also would shift aid from the state's poor, urban districts to suburban systems.

Sponsors of the Assembly plan emphasize that it would ensure that no district would receive less money than it currently does, while 411 districts would get increases. In contrast, according to the G.O.P., 192 districts would lose under Mr. Florio's plan.

"The crucial difference between our approach and the Governor's is that under our plan, everyone is a winner,'' Speaker of the General Assembly Garabed "Chuck'' Haytaian said in announcing the plan this month.

The Assembly leaders also proposed capping increases at 15 percent annually for the urban, or "special needs,'' districts, and at 10 percent for all others.

The Assembly plan, however, has not received the blessing of Senate Republicans. "There doesn't appear to be support in the Senate for the Assembly plan,'' said Rae Hutton, the spokesman for President of the Senate Donald T. DiFrancesco. "There is no consensus right now.''

Nor is Mr. Florio satisfied with the proposal. "He thinks it may be troubling,'' said his spokesman, Jo Gladding.

With school elections slated for April 7--or possibly for April 28, if Governor Florio decides to sign legislation to shift the date--school officials are stuck with the uncertainty of what budget numbers to put before the voters. (See Education Week, March 4, 1992.)

Suburban Shift

Under the Republican plan, all but four of the special-needs districts would receive less money than they would under the Governor's proposal.

The G.O.P. plan would favor smaller suburban districts with increases over Mr. Florio's recommendations.

For example, Perth Amboy, a small city with a large minority population, currently gets $29.9 million. The Governor proposed $37.4 million for the city, while the Assembly Republicans recommended $34.4 million.

The small suburb of Spotswood, on the other hand, would be restored to its current funding level of $2.72 million by the Republicans, up from the $2.69 million sought by Mr. Florio.

Also offering a contrast are Camden and Cherry Hill, two medium-sized communities near Philadelphia. The Republican plan would take $13 million away from Camden, a poor, urban area, and give suburban, middle-class Cherry Hill an additional $1.5 million.

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