Acting New Jersey Commissioner of Education Kimberley Harrington testified before the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday, April 24 on the proposed fiscal year 2018 New Jersey Department of Education budget. In her testimony, the commissioner highlighted the department recommendation for state aid totaling $13.8 billion, or approximately 39 percent of the total $35.5 billion proposed 2017-2018 state budget.
The commissioner also discussed numerous other issues reflected in the proposed 2018 education department budget including charter schools; the school choice program; scholarship grants (a voucher pilot program); school assessment standards (PARCC); and the newly minted state plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in support of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The department plan includes a new set of accountability and support standards developed collaboratively with input from stakeholder groups across New Jersey, including NJSBA, and is designed to guarantee all students are making the necessary progress required to succeed after their K-12 years are complete.
Under the proposed budget, total aid to schools increases by $16.1 million, to approximately $9.2 billion. Direct state payments for education, which include the costs of teacher pension and Social Security payments on behalf of local districts and retiree health benefits, increase by $487 million to approximately $3.7 billion; and state debt service payments increase by $20.5 million, to nearly $919 million.
Legislators asked multiple questions, focused mostly on the underfunding of the current school aid formula. Many indicated support for reviewing the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) to address districts that remain at spending levels below the current measure of per-pupil adequacy included in the law.
An archive of the complete hearing is available online. Simply select the “view” or “listen to prior proceedings tab,” and search for the N.J. Department of Education hearing of April 24, 2017.