Governor Phil Murphy is proposing a significant increase in K-12 formula aid, which would, if enacted, make substantial progress towards meeting the constitutional obligation to fully fund the State’s weighted student funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA). The proposed aid increase closes 56% of the existing $1.5 billion SFRA state aid gap.
But the Murphy Administration also sent to the Legislature another cursory report on the operation of the SFRA formula. The mandated Educational Adequacy Report (EAR) fails to propose adjustments to the formula’s base cost, student weights, and aid amounts based on rigorous analysis. A full analysis of the SFRA requires in-depth study and review of the weights for at-risk and English Learner students; the highly problematic, census-based special education formula; and the Local Fair Share calculation.
For this reason, Education Law Center is asking lawmakers to reject the EAR and require the Acting Commissioner of Education to submit a new version that analyzes the significant changes in expectations for schools over the past 15 years since introduction of the SFRA.
The key elements of Governor Murphy’s FY23 budget proposal include the following:
- $836 million in K-12 formula increases for 387 districts, an average increase of $850 per pupil;
- $68 million increase in Preschool Aid, with $40 million set aside for expansion in new districts;
- $80 million for capital maintenance and emergent projects ($50 million for SDA districts, $25 million for non-SDA districts, and $5 million for charters);
- $350 million for the Schools Development Authority (SDA) to fund facilities projects from the 2019 Statewide Strategic Plan.
Under this proposal, two-thirds of New Jersey’s school districts, and 75% of the state’s students, would see increased K-12 state funding. By following the formula, the largest aid increases are directed where the need is the greatest – helping to close persistent state aid gaps that disproportionately affect the state’s low-income, Black and Latino students.
The funding for preschool expansion will create almost 3,000 new seats that will prepare the state’s youngest students living in low-income communities or from low-income families for success in kindergarten and beyond.
ELC, in testimony to the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees, urged the Legislature to support these aid increases and keep the state on the path to full SFRA funding in FY25.
The proposal also includes over $100 million in state aid cuts to 26 districts that are currently below adequacy under the formula. The proposed $20 million in stabilization aid for districts losing funding under Senate Bill 2 is inadequate given the extraordinary challenges districts are facing because of the pandemic.
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