GOVERNOR CHRISTIE WANTS LONGER SCHOOL DAY AND YEAR AMID MASSIVE UNDERFUNDING OF NJ PUBLIC SCHOOLS
January 14, 2014
In his State of the State address today, Governor Chris Christie will propose to lengthen the school year beyond 180 days and extend the school day in New Jersey’s public schools.
The proposal comes one day after the Governor vetoed a bill to establish a task force to study how to provide full-day kindergarten to over 22,000 children stuck in half- day programs.
A longer school year and/or day has a significant price tag in the form of increased teacher and staff compensation, building operating costs, security, and administrative overhead. The Governor’s proposal impacts urban school buildings, many of which are dilapidated, in serious disrepair and unfit for summer use.
The proposal comes against the backdrop of a substantial and growing shortfall in state school aid to local districts caused by the Governor’s staunch refusal to increase funding under New Jersey’s school finance formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). Governor Christie has also halted or slowed down State construction projects needed to repair, rebuild and replace antiquated urban school buildings.
“After four years of Governor Christie’s funding cuts, many districts are reducing staff, increasing class size, and eliminating supports for at-risk students,” said David Sciarra, Education Law Center Executive Director. “District budgets are also stressed from new Common Core standards and tests and new teacher evaluations, all of which are unfunded State mandates.”
“The Governor should properly fund the school year and day we now provide for our students before putting more cost burdens on New Jersey’s struggling school districts,” Mr. Sciarra added.
The Governor’s refusal to fund the SFRA formula has resulted in an accumulated funding shortfall of almost $4.5 billion during his first term in office. In FY2014, 202 districts were “flat-funded,” receiving no state aid increase over FY 2013, and an additional 83 districts received less than $10,000. In addition, 278 districts are now classified as “below adequacy” under the SFRA formula, up from 208 districts in 2010.
In Newark, flat state aid contributed to a $50 million budget deficit in FY2014, triggering over $18 million in cuts to staff, programs and services in district-operated schools.
In addition to massive underfunding of K-12 education, Governor Christie has also refused to provide any funding to expand high quality preschool, leaving 45,000 eligible three-and four-year-olds without access to essential early education programs.
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