- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s top legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they have reached agreement on a plan for reworking how the state funds education.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the compromise would provide $100 million in new school aid for underfunded districts and $25 million to expand pre-school education.

The proposal by the two Democrats also includes $46 million in reallocated adjustment aid, which is money that has been awarded to some school districts to ensure they don’t lose aid under the current school funding formula. It would cap adjustment aid cuts in affected districts at 1.5 percent of their school budgets.

Calling it a “landmark first step” toward restoring school funding fairness, Sweeney said the agreement was a “significant reform … to provide increased aid to fast-growing districts.” He said it also would start to phase out an aid formula that provides more state aid to some districts than they are entitled to receive.

Prieto touted the funding to expand preschool education.

“Expanding preschool education may be the most significant aspect of this agreement, in the big picture, which is why it was so important to me,” he said.

The announcement came nearly a week after Republican Gov. Chris Christie missed a self-imposed deadline for reworking the funding system.

During his February budget address, Christie called for reaching a deal with the Democrat-led Legislature within 100 days. The deadline was June 8, and at that time Christie said Sweeney and Republican legislative leaders were still talking.

Christie administration representatives did not immediately respond Wednesday night to requests seeking comment on the Democrats’ proposal.

The issue at hand is how the state should divvy up aid to its more than 600 school districts. The Legislature passed a school funding formula in 2008, but except for one year, it has not been funded. The Christie administration has kept funding relatively flat, shorting the formula by about $ 1 billion a year.

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