For the second straight year, Governor Chris Christie is proposing almost no increase in school aid in his FY14 State Budget, announced on February 26, 2013. The budget proposal would, if approved, continue the Governor’s dismal record on school funding that began in 2010-11 with his massive $1.6 billion cut in aid under NJ’s school funding formula. [Click here to see how the proposed budget affects your school district.]
In his FY14 Budget, Governor Christie proposes no school aid increase for over 200 NJ school districts. A substantial number of other districts would receive small increases, so small that these districts are essentially “flat funded” as well. State aid increases are again being “phased-in” and any district entitled to an increase is only seeing one-fifth of what they are owed.
The Governor’s proposed aid increased is a paltry 1.2%, not even keeping pace with inflation. On average, districts will see an extra $117 per pupil in state aid.
Aid distributions are uneven across the state. About one-third, or 202 districts, receive no increase; another 52 receive an increase over last year in an amount less than $1,000; and another 31 districts receive less than $10,000. These amounts are not per-pupil, but rather the total aid increase per district.
Ninety-three (93) of the 285 flat or nearly flat funded districts are “below adequacy” as of last year. “Adequacy” is the level of spending determined by the State funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) – necessary to provide all students a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” education.
Districts that saw the largest percent increases in aid are some of the smallest in the state. Elmwood Park, Seaside Heights, and Chesterfield Township all receive about a 20% increase.
Governor Christie’s aid proposal is also legally improper. The Governor arbitrarily lowered the costs or “weights” for at-risk students and bilingual education students below those in the SFRA formula. The Governor has decided to simply ignore a Concurrent Resolution passed by the Legislature in February formally objecting to the Governor’s attempt to reduce funding to New Jersey’s most vulnerable students.
Even worse, the Governor is also using the “Average Daily Attendance” method of calculating enrollment, in direct violation of the SFRA law which mandates the use of an October 15 enrollment count. The Governor also added two new off-formula aid categories for FY14, apparently to minimize the harm to districts that do not fare well under his “modified formula:” a “Second Adjustment Aid” category and “Under Adequacy Aid.”
“This proposed budget is more evidence of Governor Christie’s total disregard for the funding needs of New Jersey’s public schools and at-risk children, and his willingness to simply ignore the school funding law,” said David G. Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.
“The good news is that legislators have, in the past two years, rejected the Governor’s blatant attempts to do an end run around the Legislature by pushing changes to the SFRA law in the State Budget. Our public schools are among the best in the nation, due in large part to equitable and adequate school funding. The Legislature must stand up again to protect the SFRA formula from the Governor’s unilateral efforts to undermine our high performing public education system,” Mr. Sciarra added.
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