Very few states fund public education based on the actual cost of giving all students the opportunity to achieve the state’s prescribed academic standards, with the Common Core being the latest iteration of standards in many states. This also means that few states have “fair” school funding, that is, a system that delivers sufficient funding for all students plus additional funds for poor students and students in concentrated poverty, English-language learners and students with disabilities.
New Jersey stands out in this otherwise bleak landscape because of the adoption of a landmark school funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA).
Education Law Center has now published Linking Standards to Resources: New Jersey’s School Funding Reform Act of 2008.This policy brief provides a detailed history of the development of the SFRA “weighted student” formula and its implementation through 2013.
The policy brief provides a roadmap on how the SFRA weighted student formula serves as a model for “standards-linked” school finance reform across the nation.
The brief explains how, with the adoption of the SFRA, New Jersey took the path-breaking step of connecting school funding to the state’s academic content standards and performance assessments. By delivering significantly more resources to students and schools with greater educational and education-related needs through a “weighted” formula, the SFRA was intended not only to maintain equitable funding in higher poverty districts, but also to advance equity across New Jersey, solidifying the state’s overall high ranking on school funding fairness.
The brief examines how the formula evolved over time, describing the role of standards-based education; the involvement of the New Jersey Supreme Court; and the concerted efforts of parents, education stakeholders and citizens who advocated for fair funding.
“This brief is an important resource for policymakers and stakeholders, particularly as they develop next year’s state budgets,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “Unfortunately, the SFRA has not been fully funded since the 2009-10 school year, and New Jersey is at high risk of sliding backwards in terms of equity and fairness.”
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