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GOVERNOR MURPHY BEGINS TO FILL THE SCHOOL FUNDING HOLE LEFT BY HIS PREDECESSOR

March 27, 2018

Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed education budget for FY19 is the first in eight years to distribute state aid according to the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), New Jersey’s weighted student funding formula enacted in 2008. The Governor’s proposal also puts the state on a path towards full funding for all school districts in four years.

The proposed budget does not fully fund districts in the first year, a recognition of the extraordinary funding gaps created by former Governor Chris Christie’s combination of aid cuts and flat funding over the last eight years.

The proposal does, however, take an important step forward by following the parameters of the SFRA to calculate each district’s adequacy budget – or the amount of spending required to deliver a “thorough and efficient” education (T&E) to all students. This means using a base cost adjusted for inflation; the correct “weights,” or the cost of programs for low-income (at-risk) students and English language learners (ELL); and accurately calculating the excess costs for special education.

The Governor is proposing to add $283 million in K-12 formula aid, an overall increase of 3.5%. Nearly all districts will see an aid increase while the rest will be flat-funded. The lion’s share of the increase, over $234 million, is allocated to districts currently spending “below adequacy,” or below their T&E level. The below adequacy districts receive an additional $325 per pupil, in total, compared to an increase of $80 per pupil for districts above their T&E level.

The proposed aid increase heavily favors districts with the highest levels of student poverty. Districts with 80% or higher free or reduced lunch (FRL) rates receive an additional $612 per pupil in total, while districts with less than 20% FRL receive an additional $74 per pupil.

Governor Murphy’s FY19 budget also makes a significant investment of $57 million in SFRA preschool education aid. This includes the first increase in per pupil funding for existing preschool programs since 2013-14, providing $32.5 million to address years of flat funding while programs struggled with rising health care costs, teacher salaries and other program requirements. And the budget adds $25 million for expansion of high quality preschool to low-income students across the state, as promised in the SFRA.

Given the huge shortfall caused by Governor Christie’s neglect of the SFRA formula over nearly a decade, not every district is satisfied with the increase it will receive in 2018-19. This is especially the case for districts that are significantly below adequacy with large state aid gaps. If the State Legislature decides to add additional revenue to the Governor’s proposal, that aid should be targeted to this subset of districts. It is important, however, to recognize that it will take a sustained effort over the next few years to move all under adequacy districts to their T&E spending level.   

Governor Murphy’s budget is a breath of fresh air after years of disinvestment in New Jersey students and schools. The Governor has returned to using the SFRA as the basis for calculating and distributing state aid. The SFRA remains the only formula in modern New Jersey history approved by the State Supreme Court as providing a constitutional level of resources. 

The bottom line: Governor Murphy’s budget begins to tackle the enormous deficits left by his predecessor, putting New Jersey back on the road to fair funding for all schoolchildren.  

For a complete summary of state aid to NJ school districts in Governor Murphy’s FY19 State Budget, please click here

 

Related Stories:

MOVING NEW JERSEY TO SCHOOL FUNDING ADEQUACY

 

Press Contact:

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