Great Schools New Jersey (GSNJ) – an association of superintendents who lead NJ’s high need districts – has issued a dire warning to NJ legislators about the consequences of enacting a seventh straight year of flat or reduced funding as proposed by Governor Chris Christie in his FY16 State Budget.
In a letter to legislators, GSNJ President and Woodbury City Superintendent Joseph Jones III details the mounting hardships faced by consecutive years of underfunding schools with large percentages of low-income students and English language learners (ELL) under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA), NJ’s path-breaking weighted student funding formula.
“You can well imagine the difficulties we face as we cut reading specialists, counselors, support programs, much needed supplies and important initiatives that overwhelmingly benefit the neediest students,” Superintendent Jones writes.
Along with the letter, GSNJ provides the state aid shortfall for each NJ high need district and the district’s status relative to “adequacy.” Under the SFRA formula, “adequacy” represents the cost of the teachers, support staff and other programs and services that the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) deems essential to give all students the opportunity to achieve the Common Core and other State curriculum standards. According to GSNJ, a staggering 79% of NJ’s highest need districts are now below SFRA adequacy.
GSNJ also notes that the erosion of essential resources in high need districts is compounded by costly NJDOE unfunded mandates. These include the new Common Core standards and PARCC online tests, the new teacher evaluation system, and, in many districts, the costs associated with interventions in priority and focus schools required by New Jersey’s waiver under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
GSNJ urges legislators to reject Governor Christie’s proposed flat funding in the State Budget – a proposal certain to trigger another round of cuts in essential staff, programs and services for school children. Instead, GSNJ urges lawmakers to “begin making the down payments that will put us back on a path to full formula funding.”
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications