Aid for School Districts and Higher Education
- Senator Sweeney is pledged towards making higher learning more accessible for all New Jersey students. Through his sponsorship and collaboration with Senator Cunningham, the “College Affordability Study Commission” was established in February of 2015 and reported its recommendations in September of 2016. Acting on the recommendations of the Commission, Senator Sweeney and Senator Cunningham introduced a package of bills designed to reduce the financial burden on students while increasing their chances for success. The legislation in the package would establish or expand a number of key programs and initiatives including 3-Plus-1 and 3-year degree programs, student loan tax deductions, reverse transfer policies, a dual enrollment study, and open text book resource programs.
- Senator Sweeney remains committed to fair funding of all local school districts in New Jersey. In collaboration with Senator Ruiz, he authored a plan that will bring all districts in the state to 100 percent funding under the formula established in the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. In many instances, districts are either overfunded or shortchanged, forcing the local taxpayers to make up the difference. In response, the Senate passed a resolution, sponsored by Senator Sweeney, to create the Select Committee on School Funding Fairness. The 8-member Select Committee, which Senator Sweeney chairs, will build upon the school funding policy analysis that is already underway to propose school funding amounts for each district, with the goal of providing 100% funding for every school district in the state.
- Senator Sweeney sponsored the “Building Our Future Bond Act,” which authorized $750 million in voter-approved bonds to finance higher education capital projects that will increase the academic competiveness of New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities. Grants that were approved for South Jersey include $357 million for Rutgers University, $117 million for Rowan University, $19 million for Rowan College at Gloucester County, $3 million for Salem Community College, and $2.5 million for Cumberland County College.
- Legislation has been introduced by Assemblyman Burzichelli that will aid in restoring a competitive balance among high schools in New Jersey. The measure requires that a student who attends a choice district and participates in interscholastic athletics must try out for, and compete on, an interscholastic sports team or squad in the sending district. The student would only be eligible to try out for, and compete on, an interscholastic sports team or squad in the choice district if the sending district does not sponsor an interscholastic sports team or squad in the sport in which the student wishes to participate. Choice schools have the opportunity to garner student-athletes from a large area of the population well beyond the region of their competitors, providing choice schools with a definitive athletic advantage.
Student Protections and Expanding Educational Opportunity
- Senator Sweeney has been integral in improving the quality of higher education in New Jersey, particularly with leading the efforts to expand Rowan University’s statewide and national appeal. The Senator played an integral role in securing funding for growth and development, and was proud to be on hand at the ribbon cutting ceremonies for brand new business and engineering buildings on the Glassboro campus. These facilities will be key to continued growth and success in the coming decades.
- Assemblyman Taliaferro is sponsoring a legislative effort to increase the affordability and attractiveness of New Jersey’s county colleges. This bill encourages greater opportunities for attendance at county colleges by establishing a $750 gross income tax credit and a $375 credit for part-time attendance. These tax credits provide a savings that can be used to finance a significant portion of a county college student’s tuition.
- In response to growing concerns on head-related injuries in youth sports, Assemblyman Taliaferro is a sponsor of legislation that would strengthen New Jersey’s protections and educate parents, coaches, and youth on proper care. The measure would require youth sports team organizations or programs to implement written head injury policies.
- In an effort to strengthen New Jersey’s support network for student athletes who sustain athletic injury, Assemblyman Taliaferro introduced legislation which would require public institutions of higher education to provide an equivalent scholarship to student-athletes injured in an athletic program. Currently, a public college or university can choose not to renew a student’s athletic scholarship if he or she is unable to compete due to injury that occurs while participating in a sport. The Assemblyman is also a sponsor of a bill that would direct the Commissioner of Education to appoint a coordinator and regional consultants to coordinate the education of students with traumatic brain injury.
- Assemblyman Taliaferro is sponsoring legislation which would expand educational opportunities for New Jersey’s home-schooled students. The legislation would require school districts to allow home-schooled students to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities in the student’s resident district.