Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday proposed a $34.8 billion state budget that would provide $13.3 billion in funding for elementary and secondary education during the 2016-2017 school year. The recommendation represents a $94.3 million in direct aid for school districts.
“Under this plan, every single school district will have increased funding,” said Christie during his annual budget message to a joint session of the state Legislature.
“Considering the fiscal challenges facing state government, we appreciate the increase,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “However, the amount falls short of full funding of the current aid formula, a concept we vigorously support.”
Under statute, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) must provide school districts with their individual state aid figures within 48 hours of the governor’s budget message.
“The full story will come out later this week, when the Department of Education releases district-by-district state aid results,” said Feinsod. “NJSBA will analyze the proposed state budget, and will address it during the legislative hearings which are part of the budget-deliberation process.”
“Even with a bump-up in state aid, local school boards are facing an increasingly difficult situation in meeting their communities’ educational needs,” said Feinsod. “Therefore, over the next year, NJSBA will continue to seek legislation, such as an adjustment to the 2 percent tax levy cap for growing state- and federally-required special education costs, and removing limits that restrict expenditures on the implementation of the state’s extensive teacher evaluation process, which is critical to New Jersey’s tenure reform act.”
Part of the direct aid increase consists of $25.9 million for a new account, “Host District Support Aid,” to ensure steady per-student funding for charter schools. Christie said that up to six new charter schools for about 1,100 students will open in the next fiscal year, and that he has asked the NJDOE to “aggressively slash regulation for New Jersey charter schools.”
The budget would also provide $53.7 million, an increase of $1.2 million, for the inter-district school choice program.
Other new aid categories include “Commercial Valuation Stabilization Aid” ($32 million), designed to help districts that encountered severe ratable losses, and Professional Learning Community Aid” ($13.4 million), which would provide each district with $10 per pupil to develop programs “to help teachers and administrators analyze and use the data they collect,” according to the Treasury Department’s Budget Summary.
The proposed budget would also increase Extraordinary Special Education Cost Aid by $5 million, to $170 million.
The governor’s proposed budget will now be considered by the Legislature. The lawmakers’ deliberations will include committee hearings, public testimony and review of state revenue projections. The Legislature and governor must enact a state budget, or appropriations act, by July 1.
Below is a chart that provides an overview of the school aid portion of the proposed budget.