Could 275 school districts in N.J. soon be consolidated? (We’ve got the list)

Senate Education Committee approves bill that would create K-12 districts or countywide districts

In what surely will be a huge test in both challenging “home rule” and implementing many of the consolidation aspects of State Senate President Steve Sweeney’s “Path to Progress” reforms, the Senate Education Committee approved legislation this week that aims to consolidate all K-4, K-5, K-6, K-8 and K-9 districts into K-12 or countywide districts.

The move could impact as many as 275 districts.

To be clear: The bill still has a way to go.

The bill, S3488, has been sent to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, which would have to approve and send it to the full Senate. Should it be approved there, it will need to be passed in the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Sweeney has long pushed for consolidation of school districts, arguing first and foremost that it will improve education in the state by ensuring all students who will eventually be in the same high school will follow the same path to get there.

The bill, however, represents more than that.

New Jersey — in what is a stunning statistic to everyone who hears it — actually has more school districts (584) than municipalities (565). Many feel this is the poster child for home rule. And many feel home rule is a leading factor in high property taxes.

The bipartisan bill has some of the most powerful and influential members of the Senate behind it. In addition to Sweeney (D-West Deptford), it is co-sponsored by Sens. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.), Declan O’Scanlon (R-Holmdel) and Troy Singleton (D-Moorestown).

“This will be the first major overhaul of New Jersey’s school regionalization statute in over 25 years,” Sweeney said. “It is designed to improve the quality of education by ensuring coordination of curriculum from K to 12, provide the enriched educational experience that smaller districts cannot offer, and generate long-term savings that can be used to hold down property taxes or reinvest in expanded educational programs.”

Sweeney said it helps with education — and saves money — especially for the smaller districts.

“Regionalization is particularly important for small districts with declining enrollments that are having an increasingly hard time providing a quality educational experience and making their budgets work,” he said.

“One-school districts with fewer than 500 students spend 17% more per pupil than the 60% of New Jersey districts with 1,000 or more students, and those include the large urban districts and comprehensive K-12 districts that are supposed to spend more under the state formula. Regionalization makes sense.”

It is unclear if the bill would force regionalization. But it would make it easier.

The legislation does the following:

  • Establishes criteria for state-funded regionalization studies;
  • Increases flexibility on regionalization cost apportionment;
  • Bars any regionalization that would have a segregative effect;
  • Protects accrued tenure and seniority;
  • Provides significant financial incentives for districts losing state aid because of declining enrollment to regionalize by extending the schedule for their Adjustment Aid cuts from four years to eight years.

Salem County is currently exploring the possibility of creating New Jersey’s first countywide school district with a state-funded Local Efficiency Achievement Program grant, and both Pinelands Regional in Ocean and Burlington counties and Roosevelt in Monmouth County are using LEAP grants for K-12 regionalization studies.

The new legislation provides for an expedited preliminary approval process to enable districts losing Adjustment Aid to readjust their 2021-2022 school budgets to factor in the increased state aid they would receive for participating in regionalization studies in the first year.

Gopal said the legislation takes into account a number of factors.

“Our legislation removes significant barriers to regionalization, including a statutory provision to recalculate state aid that would have made it more costly for some districts to regionalize than to remain separate,” he said. “Furthermore, it extends the timeline for Adjustment Aid cuts from four years to eight years for districts that regionalize. Most importantly, it is a voluntary process that provides local districts with greater flexibility to design a regionalization phase-in that makes sense for all.”

Sweeney said the legislation incorporates recommendations made by all of the major statewide educational organizations, by the Governor’s Shared Services czars Nic Platt and Jordan Glatt, by the Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup’s Education Task Force co-chaired by Rutgers University professor Ray Caprio and former Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, and by school board members, administrators, teachers, parents and local government officials he met with throughout the state.

Here’s a county-by-county list of the school districts that would be impacted:

Atlantic (15)

  • Absecon City
  • Brigantine City
  • Egg Harbor City
  • Estell Manor City
  • Folsom Borough
  • Galloway Township
  • Hamilton Township
  • Linwood City
  • Margate City
  • Mullica Township
  • Northfield City
  • Port Republic City
  • Somers Point City
  • Ventnor City
  • Weymouth Township

Bergen (31)

  • Allendale Borough
  • Alpine Borough
  • Carlstadt Borough
  • Closter Borough
  • Demarest Borough
  • East Rutherford Borough
  • Edgewater Borough
  • Englewood Cliffs Borough
  • Fairview Borough
  • Franklin Lakes Borough
  • Harrington Park Borough
  • Haworth Borough
  • Hillsdale Borough
  • Ho Ho Kus Borough
  • Little Ferry Borough
  • Maywood Borough
  • Montvale Borough
  • Moonachie Borough
  • Northvale Borough
  • Norwood Borough
  • Oakland Borough
  • Old Tappan Borough
  • Oradell Borough
  • River Edge Borough
  • River Vale Township
  • Rochelle Park Township
  • Saddle River Borough
  • South Hackensack Township
  • Upper Saddle River Borough
  • Woodcliff Lake Borough
  • Wyckoff Township

Burlington (23)

  • Bass River Township
  • Beverly City
  • Chesterfield Township
  • Delanco Township
  • Eastampton Township
  • Edgewater Park Township
  • Evesham Township
  • Hainesport Township
  • Lumberton Township
  • Mansfield Township
  • Medford Lakes Borough
  • Medford Township
  • Mount Holly Township
  • Mount Laurel Township
  • New Hanover Township
  • North Hanover Township
  • Riverton
  • Shamong Township
  • Southampton Township
  • Springfield Township
  • Tabernacle Township
  • Westampton
  • Woodland Township

Camden (20)

  • Barrington Borough
  • Bellmawr Borough
  • Berlin Borough
  • Berlin Township
  • Brooklawn Borough
  • Clementon Borough
  • Gibbsboro Borough
  • Gloucester Township
  • Laurel Springs Borough
  • Lawnside Borough
  • Magnolia Borough
  • Merchantville Borough
  • Mount Ephraim Borough
  • Runnemede Borough
  • Somerdale Borough
  • Stratford Borough
  • Oaklyn
  • Voorhees Township
  • Waterford Township
  • Woodlynne Borough

Cape May (10)

  • Avalon Borough
  • Cape May City
  • Dennis Township
  • Lower Township
  • North Wildwood City
  • Stone Harbor Borough
  • Upper Township
  • West Cape May Borough
  • Wildwood Crest Borough
  • Woodbine Borough

Cumberland (10)

  • Commercial Township
  • Deerfield Township
  • Downe Township
  • Fairfield Township
  • Greenwich Township
  • Hopewell Township
  • Lawrence Township
  • Maurice River Township
  • Stow Creek Township
  • Upper Deerfield Township

Essex (4)

  • Essex Fells Borough
  • Fairfield Township
  • North Caldwell Borough
  • Roseland Borough

Gloucester (13)

  • East Greenwich Township
  • Elk Township
  • Franklin Township
  • Greenwich Township
  • Harrison Township
  • Logan Township
  • Mantua Township
  • National Park Borough
  • South Harrison Township
  • Swedesboro-Woolwich
  • Wenonah Borough
  • Westville Borough
  • Woodbury Heights Borough

Hudson (2)

  • East Newark Borough
  • Guttenberg Town

Hunterdon (21)

  • Alexandria Township
  • Bethlehem Township
  • Bloomsbury Borough
  • Califon Borough
  • Clinton Township
  • Clinton-Glen Gardner
  • Delaware Township
  • East Amwell Township
  • Flemington-Raritan Regional
  • Franklin Township
  • Frenchtown Borough
  • Hampton Borough
  • High Bridge Borough
  • Holland Township
  • Kingwood Township
  • Lebanon Borough
  • Lebanon Township
  • Milford Borough
  • Readington Township
  • Tewksbury Township
  • Union Township

Mercer (0)

Middlesex (3)

  • Cranbury Township
  • Jamesburg Borough
  • Milltown Borough

Monmouth (31)

  • Atlantic Highlands Borough
  • Avon Borough
  • Belmar Borough
  • Bradley Beach Borough
  • Brielle Borough
  • Colts Neck Township
  • Deal Borough
  • Eatontown Borough
  • Fair Haven Borough
  • Farmingdale Borough
  • Freehold Borough
  • Freehold Township
  • Highlands Borough
  • Howell Township
  • Little Silver Borough
  • Manalapan-Englishtown Reg
  • Marlboro Township
  • Millstone Township
  • Monmouth Beach Borough
  • Neptune City
  • Oceanport Borough
  • Red Bank Borough
  • Roosevelt Borough
  • Rumson Borough
  • Sea Girt Borough
  • Shrewsbury Borough
  • Spring Lake Borough
  • Spring Lake Heights Borough
  • Tinton Falls
  • Union Beach
  • West Long Branch Borough

Morris (20)

  • Boonton Township
  • Chester Township
  • Denville Township
  • East Hanover Township
  • Florham Park Borough
  • Hanover Township
  • Harding Township
  • Lincoln Park Borough
  • Long Hill Township
  • Mendham Borough
  • Mendham Township
  • Mine Hill Township
  • Morris Plains Borough
  • Mount Arlington Borough
  • Netcong Borough
  • Riverdale Borough
  • Rockaway Borough
  • Rockaway Township
  • Washington Township
  • Wharton Borough

Ocean (14)

  • Bay Head Borough
  • Beach Haven Borough
  • Berkeley Township
  • Eagleswood Township
  • Island Heights Borough
  • Lakehurst Borough
  • Lavallette Borough
  • Little Egg Harbor Township
  • Long Beach Island
  • Ocean Gate Borough
  • Ocean Township
  • Seaside Heights Borough
  • Stafford Township
  • Tuckerton Borough

Passaic (9)

  • Bloomingdale Borough
  • Haledon Borough
  • Little Falls Township
  • North Haledon Borough
  • Prospect Park Borough
  • Ringwood Borough
  • Totowa Borough
  • Wanaque Borough
  • Woodland Park

Salem (7)

  • Alloway Township
  • Elsinboro Township
  • Lower Alloways Creek
  • Mannington Township
  • Oldmans Township
  • Quinton Township
  • Upper Pittsgrove Township

Somerset (6)

  • Bedminster Township
  • Branchburg Township
  • Green Brook Township
  • South Bound Brook
  • Warren Township
  • Watchung Borough

Sussex (16)

  • Andover Regional
  • Byram Township
  • Frankford Township
  • Franklin Borough
  • Fredon Township
  • Green Township
  • Hamburg Borough
  • Hampton Township
  • Hardyston Township
  • Lafayette Township
  • Montague Township
  • Ogdensburg Borough
  • Sandyston-Walpack Township
  • Stanhope Borough
  • Stillwater Township
  • Sussex-Wantage Regional

Union (3)

  • Garwood Borough
  • Mountainside Borough
  • Winfield Township

Warren (17)

  • Allamuchy Township
  • Alpha Borough
  • Blairstown Township
  • Franklin Township
  • Frelinghuysen Township
  • Great Meadows Regional
  • Greenwich Township
  • Harmony Township
  • Hope Township
  • Knowlton Township
  • Lopatcong Township
  • Mansfield Township
  • Oxford Township
  • Pohatcong Township
  • Washington Borough
  • Washington Township
  • White Township