GOVERNOR'S SCHOOL FUNDING PROPOSAL: A BAIT AND SWITCH
LESS AID FOR UNDERFUNDED DISTRICTS WHILE MORE DISTRICTS WOULD SEE CUTS
April 11, 2012
An analysis of the NJ Department of Education's FY13 budget by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS) uncovers the stark reality faced by NJ school districts if Governor Christie's school aid proposal for 2012-13 is adopted by the State Legislature.
The OLS analysis confirms the radical, structural changes to the NJ school funding formula – the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) – proposed by the Governor. These so-called "modifications" to the SFRA formula include significant reductions in the cost of educating poor (at-risk) students and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, and the use of the widely discredited "average daily attendance" method of counting students for school funding purposes.
The OLS analysis also lays bare how the Governor proposes to "phase in" the 2012-13 school aid generated by his “modified” formula over a five-year time frame. The Governor's phase-in dramatically limits the increase in state aid over the next five years for those districts targeted for additional funding under SFRA, especially districts spending below the “adequacy” level set by the formula. The proposal also locks almost 100 other districts into successive years of state aid cuts.
The Governor's phase-in proposal is not authorized under the SFRA law and, if adopted, would take all districts "off formula" for the entire five-year phase-in period, or through 2016-17.
According to the OLS analysis of the Governor's "modified" formula:
- 484 districts would receive a state aid increase totaling $633 million in 2012-13; however, by phasing in this one-year increase in equal installments over the next five years, the aid increase required for 2012-13 is reduced by four-fifths, from $494 million to $139 million.
- 97 districts would experience state aid cuts, totaling $204 million statewide; under the phase-in, these districts would see a steady decline in state aid over the next five years.
- Under the current SFRA formula – without the Governor's "modifications" – almost all districts would receive an increase in state aid, totaling $890 million statewide if the formula is fully funded. Only ten districts would see aid cuts due to declining enrollment, and twelve would see no change in aid.
"Hundreds of districts, especially in moderate and middle class communities, have been waiting since 2008 for the State to make good on the promise of increased funding under the SFRA formula," said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. "Not only will these districts see overall aid levels reduced under the Governor’s so-called ‘modified’ formula, they will have to wait five years just to get what they should be receiving this year. It's a classic bait and switch."
To illustrate the impact statewide, here's how the "modified" formula and five-year phase-in play out in select districts:
- In 2012-13, Swedesboro-Woolwich school district, with a rapidly growing student enrollment, will only receive one-fifth, or $355,000, of the $1.78 million it is entitled to under the "modified" formula, and aid increases will be limited to this amount for each year through 2016-17.
- Bayonne and North Bergen districts, two of the most underfunded and lowest-spending districts in the state, will each see only $2.8 million of the $14 million that each district should receive in 2012-13 under the “modified” formula.
- Lakewood, in Ocean County, will see only $1.1 million in additional funding each year until 2016-17, instead of the one-year $5.6 million increase that the “modified” formula provides.
- Vernon Township will lose $1.6 million this year and every year through 2016-17, when it loses a total of $8.4 million.
- Hopatcong will lose over $764,000 each year for the next five years until it loses a total of $3.8 million.
- Trenton is slated to lose nearly $1 million in the coming school year and will lose that same amount for the next five years for a total of $4.9 million when the "modified" formula is fully phased-in by 2016-17.
"As the OLS analysis makes clear, and as these examples show, all districts and students are losers under the Governor's proposals, and we strongly urge the Legislature to reject them," Mr. Sciarra said.
To find out how the proposed phase-in of the “modified” formula would affect your district, click here.
Policy and Outreach Coordinator