The New Jersey House of Representatives rejected yesterday the Senate amendment to appropriate $33,000 in unclaimed lottery funds to full-time Public School System teachers.
House Education Committee chair Justo S. Quitugua said the bill now goes to the conference committee for resolution.
He said there is a need to change "some language" in the bill. For instance, he said that, if the entire fund of $33,000 is distributed among the 500 PSS teachers, each recipient would only end up getting $66.
"Isn't it insulting to do that?" asked Quitugua.
He said there is also an issue with the proposed expenditure authority, which would lie with individual teachers.
He said that, if the expenditure authority is given to each teacher, it requires all teachers to sign separate procurement documents.
"One obstacle there is that they can't order by the bulk. It would be very difficult because you'd have all the teachers having to sign up," he said.
He said he believes that it is "not a good practice" of fund management. He said schools are managed by school principals.
House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial appointed three members to the conference committee: Quitugua, Commerce Committee chair Martin Ada, and House Ways and Means Committee chair Norman S. Palacios.
The Senate has yet to appoint its own members.
The upper chamber earlier amended the bill to ensure that the unclaimed lottery funds would go to teachers for urgent classroom use.
The bill originally wanted to give the funds, then totaling $24,000, to the Postsecondary Teacher Education Program Scholarship.
PSS teacher representative Ambrose Bennett had lobbied the Senate to allocate the funds to classroom teachers who are oftentimes forced to use their own money to buy badly needed classroom supplies.
In the amended bill, the Senate acknowledged that "many teachers currently purchase supplies for their students out of their own pockets due to inadequate supplies."
"Lack of much needed supplies deprives our children of the quality education they are rightfully entitled to. Therefore, this bill intends to alleviate some of the financial burden on the schools and teachers of PSS," reads part of the bill.
Sen. Joseph M. Mendiola, chair of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs, said the teacher education program scholarship "receives funding as per Public Law 13-24."
The Senate said that any full-time PSS teacher is eligible for the funds and shall be the expenditure authority, subject to the concurrence of the school principal.
The funds are the accumulated unclaimed lottery prizes from 1998 to 2004.