With final passage of the FY15 State Budget, New Jersey school districts now have a clear picture of the resources available to them in the coming year as they strive to provide their students with a “thorough and efficient” education.
Governor Chris Christie proposed a state aid increase in FY15 of only $20 per pupil, far below the levels required by the State’s school funding formula. The Governor’s aid proposal was not modified by the State Legislature, but several other aspects of the Governor’s initial budget and the Legislature’s counter proposals were changed or eliminated in the final version of the budget:
- The Governor’s proposed $5 million Innovation Fund was removed and replaced with the Legislature’s $2.5 million Education Reform Implementation Grant Program. The Innovation Fund was intended to provide competitive grants to support district pilot programs for extended learning time, while the grant program in the approved budget focuses on professional development and helping districts prepare for the new, online PARCC assessments.
- The final budget includes a new $3 million grant program for partnerships between county vocational schools and school districts, county colleges and other entities to create high-quality career and technical education programs.
- In the approved budget, school choice aid was reduced by $4.7 million by modifying budget language to ensure that choice districts do not receive funding for students who did not actually enroll in the choice program.
- The Governor vetoed $3 million in Charter School Adjustment Aid proposed by the Legislature. This off-formula calculation would have provided additional funding for charter schools located in districts that receive Adjustment Aid under the school funding formula, even though this “hold harmless” aid is intended for districts only.
New Jersey schools face another year of nearly flat school funding, even as they struggle to meet new State mandates, including implementation of the Common Core standards and PARCC tests. In fact, FY15 represents the sixth straight year the State has failed to follow the school funding formula and provide districts with the aid to which they are entitled under the law. Cumulative underfunding now tops $6 billion.
As inadequate budgets challenge districts’ ability to provide a high-quality education, it’s New Jersey schoolchildren who will suffer.
Policy and Outreach Director
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Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications