5 STEPS TO IMPROVE THE FY18 STATE BUDGET FOR NJ SCHOOL CHILDREN
March 29, 2017
Governor Chris Christie’s proposed school aid budget for FY18 is another blow to public school children. The Governor is proposing a seventh straight year of no increase in school aid under New Jersey’s weighted student formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). This follows on the heels of the Governor’s massive $1.1 billion aid cut in 2010, his first year in office.
The only good news: this budget is, thankfully, Governor Christie’s last.
Another no-aid-increase budget is, of course, a budget that requires cuts. Fixed costs, enrollment growth, inflation, and new mandates from Trenton all mean districts must again reduce budgetary expenditures on teachers, support staff, and interventions for students. In putting their budgets together for the 2017-18 school year, many districts are facing another year of staff layoffs and program cuts as they struggle to provide students the opportunity to achieve New Jersey’s academic standards.
The only winners in Governor Christie’s budget are – once again – charter schools. The Governor proposes $41 million in “off formula” hold harmless aid for charters, a $6.4 million increase over last year. The Governor also wants another $28 million in charter “host district” aid, most of which goes to cover rapid charter growth in the State-operated Newark school district.
New Jersey legislators must reject this budget. But they must do more, even in the face of the Governor’s threat to line-item veto any aid increase.
Here are five ways to make modest improvements in school funding in the FY18 State Budget:
- Eliminate the $1 million proposed by the Governor for a non-existent voucher program;
- Eliminate the extra $41 million in hold harmless aid to charter schools, and reallocate the aid to school districts spending below their adequacy, or “thorough and efficient” (T&E), budget under the SFRA formula;
- Eliminate and reallocate through the formula the $28 million in host district aid, which is being provided because the State is requiring districts to pay charters at a higher per pupil rate than the law established, and return to the proper per pupil rate for charters;
- Increase SFRA formula aid by an additional $75 million targeted to below T&E districts,
- Provide $25 million in preschool education aid to jumpstart expansion of the high quality Abbott program under the SFRA formula.
In addition, lawmakers must resist calls to reduce adjustment aid in districts spending below their T&E budget, unless such reductions are offset by State-mandated increases in local revenue.
Governor Christie recently labeled the SFRA formula as a “disaster.” He’s wrong again. The only disaster is the Governor’s stubborn refusal to put any new state aid into the formula for seven straight years.
Legislators have stood by the SFRA since the Governor came into office, resisting any attempt to gut or weaken the formula’s costs, weights and aid amounts. It’s now time to increase school aid in the FY18 State Budget so those school districts most in need receive the funding their students are owed by the State.
Read Education Law Center’s testimony presented to the Assembly Budget Committee on school funding in the FY18 State Budget.
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