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FY14 NJ EDUCATION BUDGET PROTECTS SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA, STRIKES VOUCHERS

But Flat Funding Leaves Students Further Behind 

June 27, 2013

With passage by the Legislature of the FY14 State Budget, the outlook for New Jersey's public school students is best described as, "It could be worse." 

Below is a summary of the highlights and lowlights of the budget as it pertains to public education in the 2013-14 school year.

Positives:

On the plus side, the Legislature again stripped from the budget various proposals intended by Governor Chris Christie to set back NJ's longstanding commitment to adequate and fair school funding. Specifically, the Legislature removed:

  • numerous "modifications" of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) – NJ's landmark school funding formula – in an effort to reduce state spending on schools, especially for the education of poor students and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students;
  • $2 million for private and religious school vouchers;
  • $5 million for a vague, undefined "Innovation Fund" for "competitive grants" to districts;
  • $7 million from a "stealth" tax on school construction grants.

Negatives:

The downside of this budget is that FY14 state aid levels are far below what is required under the SFRA. Education Law Center estimates that the total aid shortfall under the formula will now reach $5.1 billion, a result of Governor Christie's massive $1.1 billion aid cut in 2010-11, and the failure to fund mandated increases for an additional three years.

The growing shortfall in formula funding, and the harmful impact on NJ’s schoolchildren, falls squarely on Governor Christie, who has used his line-item veto to block any effort by the Legislature to increase the appropriation of school aid in the budget.             

The other downside is the failure, for the fifth straight year, to provide any funding to expand statewide NJ's best-in-the-nation Abbott Preschool Program. Under the SFRA, the state is required to phase in, over five years, this high quality preschool program to 80 additional high need communities and to all low-income children in the rest of the state. The requirement remains in law, but unfunded.      

"The good news is legislators heard the voices of parents and advocates from across the state telling them that they don't want vouchers and they want Governor Christie to keep his hands off the funding formula," said Sharon Krengel, ELC Policy and Outreach Director.

"Our funding formula is the most equitable in the nation, and it remains the law," Ms. Krengel added. "Parents and grassroots organizations in urban, suburban and rural communities are prepared to step up efforts to fully fund the formula next year, so every child has the resources they need for an excellent education."

 

Related Stories:

CHRISTIE’S FAILURE TO FUND THE FORMULA FOUR YEARS RUNNING

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION’S STEALTH TAX WIPES OUT SCHOOL AID INCREASES

NJ DISTRICTS STILL REELING FROM GOVERNOR CHRISTIE'S $1 BILLION FUNDING CUT IN FY11

GOVERNOR'S VOUCHER PROPOSAL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL LOGROLLING

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24