On Aug. 25, Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a $32.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 (FY2021), including $7.3 billion in direct state aid to school districts. When combined with the $1.37 billion allocated for the remainder of fiscal year 2020, ending Sept. 30, state aid for the 2020-2021 academic year will total approximately $8.68 billion.

In addition, Murphy plans to direct $100 million from the state’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds to assist school districts in meeting health and safety standards required for reopening.

Total education aid represents essentially flat funding from fiscal year 2020, although that does not necessarily mean flat funding for individual districts. All indications are the state will honor the state aid figures announced previously. Those figures can be accessed here.  

In commenting on the proposed budget, NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod cited the need for additional federal support to help districts meet expenses involved in providing education during the pandemic.

During a conference call with NJSBA and other major state educational organizations, Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin Dehmer stated the following:

  • “The proposed budget includes nearly $8.7 billion in formula aid that translates to direct K-12 school funding.”
  • “The budget provides that districts will receive the level of funding included in the July aid notices, and ensures districts are able to enact the budgets they’ve already begun for the 2020-2021 school year.”
  • “The Governor is proposing to preserve last years’ highest ever level of extraordinary aid that supports the special education students that need the most intensive services.”

Also included in the budget proposal is $60 million in federal aid to address the digital divide and provide necessary computer devices for 230,000 New Jersey students who lack digital access. This is in line with plans announced by the governor last month to address gaps in student access.  

Funding to Meet Health Standards In addition to state aid to schools, the governor plans to apportion “$100 million from the State’s allocation of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to school districts to help defray costs incurred for reopening schools in the midst of the pandemic,” Dehmer noted.

“… districts are facing the challenges of ensuring the safety of their students and staff as they embark on the start of the new school year. In some cases, this means operating remotely,” he said. “In other cases, it means providing in-person instruction with proper social distancing. In all cases, it means a different type of financial need than in years past.”

Governor Murphy was expected to provide additional information during a news conference on Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, at Somerville High School.

Second Budget The budget is Murphy’s second spending proposal in 2020. The governor, in his budget address, noted that exactly six months ago to the day — Feb. 25 — he stood before the Legislature in a crowded Assembly chamber to lay out the next budget. “There was no social distancing and not a face mask in sight…my, how things have changed,” he said. 

On April 1, the governor and legislative leaders announced plans to extend the fiscal year 2020 budget an additional three months, to Sept. 30, to give the state more time to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on New Jersey’s economy. Lawmakers passed legislation continuing funding for the additional three months.  

That extension means fiscal year 2021 will be an anomaly as it will only last nine months, Oct. 1 through June 30. In February, the governor had proposed a $40 billion budget for FY2021, including $9 billion in state aid for schools. However, in anticipation of lower-thanexpected revenues, aid was reduced to $8.68 billion. 

The Legislature has until Oct. 1 to enact the state budget. Although legislative leaders have announced they plan to hold budget hearings, it is unknown how much, if any, they will deviate from the usual process. A large hurdle was addressed earlier this month when the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that due to the pandemic, the state could borrow money from the federal government and/or sell bonds to balance the budget. Included in the governor’s proposal are plans to borrow $4 billion, far short of the $9.9 billion borrowing authority granted by the Legislature earlier in the year. 

Additional details on the budget proposal are available on the website of the state Treasury department here