New Jersey lawmakers have some questions about the education aid that accounts for about a third of Gov. Chris Christie's budget plan.

 

Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vinnie Prieto is concerned that the budget seeks to make some adjustments in spending for at-risk students required by the school funding formula.

"We need to make sure we spend this money wisely and try to fund the formula and give it a chance to work," said Prieto, D-Hudson.

Education Commissioner Chris Cerf says the focus should be on what works to improve student performance.

"I will tell you that there are districts in this state where you could send them many millions of dollars additional money, and you would get almost no return in the form of improved graduation rates or improved student achievement levels," he said Thursday.

Cerf says the budget does not reduce state aid for any school district.

But lawmakers say debt service payments the administration is requiring on grants for school construction mean about half the districts will end up with less money to spend.

"I don't know how you do this with a straight face to those districts because it has a negative impact on them," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester. "It has to directly cause one of two things -- either a property tax increase to make up the money or a continued reduction in services."