2017 Educational Adequacy Report Also Targets Preschool Aid

In a repeat of 2014, Governor Chris Christie is again proposing significant cuts to the cost of educating low-income, or “at-risk,” students and English language learners (LEP) over the next three years. The Governor also wants to forego any cost increase for New Jersey’s preschool program.

The Governor’s proposed cuts are contained in the Educational Adequacy Report (EAR), a mandated three-year review of the costs of educating New Jersey school children through the State’s weighted student funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). The 2017 EAR, prepared by Commissioner of Education David Hespe, now goes to the Legislature for review. The Legislature has 90 days to object to the Governor’s proposed education cost cuts.

At the core of the SFRA formula is the “adequacy budget” for each district, or the amount required to provide a thorough and efficient education. The budget includes a “base cost” for all students and an added cost for at-risk and LEP students, and “combination” students (both at-risk and LEP). In the EAR, the Commissioner recommends to the Legislature what these costs should be for the next three school years.

In the 2017 EAR, the Governor will try again to cut the cost of educating at-risk, LEP and combination students by arbitrarily lowering the “weights” for these students in the SFRA formula. The weights represent the additional costs, expressed as a fraction of the base cost, of providing smaller classes, tutoring, intensive literacy and other programs and services for at-risk students and those learning English.

Former Commissioner Christopher Cerf, now State District Superintendent in Newark, proposed the same arbitrary cost cuts in the last EAR in 2014. The cuts were rejected by the Legislature.

In the 2017 EAR, the Governor proposes these education cost cuts:

At-risk Students: Weights reduced from .47 to .41 for the lowest poverty districts, and from .57 to .46 in the highest poverty districts. This means a $666 cut per pupil in low poverty districts, and a $1,211 per pupil cut in high poverty districts.

LEP Students: Weights reduced from .50 to .47, a $333 cut per pupil.

Combination Students: Weights reduced from .125 to .0990, a $286 cut per pupil in addition to the at-risk per pupil cut.

Preschool Students: The per-pupil costs for preschool are unchanged since 2014, ignoring three years of inflationary adjustments required under the formula that would have resulted in significantly higher per-pupil costs for district-run and private provider programs.

These cost reductions will have a dramatic impact, especially in the poorest districts. For example, in a district such as Elizabeth – with a student poverty rate of 86% and over 25,000 at-risk students and over 4,200 LEP students – the reduction in the weights for at-risk and LEP students would lower the district’s adequacy budget by over $23 million.

The vast majority of districts would see their adequacy budgets reduced, with the cuts higher in districts serving more at-risk and LEP students. In low poverty districts (less than 20% at-risk), the average reduction is $58 per-pupil in contrast to $889 per pupil in a high poverty district (60% or more at-risk), or 15 times higher in a high poverty district.

Overall, the Governor’s proposal would:

? Reduce the cost of educating at-risk and LEP students by over $520 million statewide;

? Result in two-thirds of those cost cuts – or $356 million – occurring in districts with poverty rates over 60%.

“It is hard to believe the Governor would try to cut the cost of educating New Jersey’s most vulnerable school children when the Legislature rejected these same cuts in 2013,” said David Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director. “Lawmakers know these cuts strike at the very heart of the SFRA formula – providing funding for at-risk students without regard to zip code or whether they attend district, charter or vocational schools.”

“We are confident the Legislature will once again stand up to Governor Christie and reject these phony cost cuts,” Mr. Sciarra added.

To find out how the proposed weight reductions would affect your district, click here.


Related Stories:

An Advocate’s Guide to the Educational Adequacy Report


Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240