New Jersey remains near the top of the nation on school funding fairness in the National Report Card, Is School Funding Fair? But funding fairness in the Garden State continues to erode as Governor Chris Christie’s administration repeatedly refuses to fund school districts as required by the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), the state’s path-breaking weighted student formula.
Education Law Center released the fifth edition of the nation’s report card on fair school funding today.
The latest Report Card analyzes data from the 2013 Census fiscal survey, the most recent available. By 2013, Governor Christie had cut school aid from the SFRA formula by $1.1 billion. The Governor had to restore half of that sum to urban districts under a 2011 NJ Supreme Court order.
Since 2013, Governor Christie has increased K-12 school aid by a mere 1.6% and is proposing another year of near-flat funding in his proposed FY17 State Budget. The SFRA is a progressive formula that targets additional funding to students most in need – poor (at-risk) students and English language learners – regardless of where they attend school. By not following the formula and reducing aid levels, the Governor has forced districts to cut the essential teachers, support staff and programs that the State itself determined these students need to meet academic standards.
The Report Card shows that New Jersey’s level of funding progressivity slipped slightly from 130% in 2012, to 124% 2013. But when compared with the state’s 2009 level of 149% – the first year of SFRA’s implementation – it’s clear that New Jersey, under Governor Christie, is not maintaining the commitments made in the formula.
Again comparing 2009 and 2013 levels, New Jersey has also slipped in the amount of funding allocated to schools as a percentage of state fiscal capacity. But the state’s ranking on overall funding level has remained steady at No. 3, behind only Alaska and New York.
“New Jersey’s high level of fair school funding is why our public schools are among the highest achieving in the nation,” said David G. Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director and a co-author of the Report Card. “This historic accomplishment represents three decades of hard, sustained effort by advocates, teachers, parents, governors and lawmakers, with occasional prodding by our Supreme Court.”
“But we see how these gains can be quickly lost when a governor staunchly resists working collaboratively to sustain fair school funding,” Mr. Sciarra added. “It’s time to send Governor Christie a strong message that New Jersey’s economic and civic vitality depends on investing in all students, especially those most at-risk, so they have the resources needed to succeed in school and in life.”
Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card is coauthored by Dr. Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education; David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center (ELC); Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director; and Theresa Luhm, Esq., ELC Managing Director. Please visit www.schoolfundingfairness.org
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