Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his fiscal year 2024 budget address on Tuesday, Feb. 28, proposing that the state spend an additional $832 million in direct K-12 aid for public schools. That would mean about $11 billion of the overall $53.1 billion spending plan would go toward K-12 formula aid. This investment represents the sixth year of the seven-year plan designed to phase districts into their full funding amounts.
“Making this investment will mean that in our six years of working together, we will have increased overall K-12 support to our schools by more than $2.6 billion,” he said. “That’s a more than 30% increase.”
That support will help districts and educators continue to reverse the learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic, which forced students to learn on a remote basis, he said.
“And to help push this effort further, this budget will commit $10 million more for high-impact tutoring to support the students who most need it,” he said. “This ups our total investment in academic recovery to nearly $300 million.” The additional $10 million for high-impact tutoring the governor referenced in his address is in addition to the investments he announced earlier this month.
Every penny that the state provides for students, educators and schools is an investment in the future of our children, communities and economy – and the money also provides property tax relief, he said.
He noted that the state’s fiscal responsibility under his leadership has led to the state receiving three credit rating upgrades in the span of six months last year, enabling it to save money on things like new roads and bridges and new schools. “And when we save money, every single taxpayer saves money,” he said. The budget he’s proposing, he said, is designed “to support the next round of credit upgrades.”
The governor also noted that the budget will make the third consecutive full payment into the state’s pension funds – “keeping our word and meeting our obligation” to those who run the state. The budget includes a surplus of more than $10 billion – or almost 20% of the budget, he said.
Preschool in Focus
To advance his goal of universal pre-K, an increase of $109 million for preschool education aid is being proposed, $40 million of which will go toward expanding programs in new districts as well as other critical needs for further expansion, such as workforce development. Since fiscal year 2018, the state has already increased pre-K funding by over $310 million.
“Pre-K isn’t just a smart investment in early childhood education – an investment proven to pay dividends throughout that child’s life. It’s also an investment in working families,” he said.
He continued, “The cost of full-day child care can easily eat $20,000 of a family’s budget every single year – if not more. For many middle-class and working families, and especially for single parents, this cost can put high-quality child care completely out of reach.”
He added that it also leaves too many parents with no alternatives than cutting back on hours or leaving the workplace altogether, “putting their family’s financial future on hold.” He added, “So, every new seat we can create in a pre-K classroom makes life more affordable for working parents.”
Tackling the Educator Shortage and the Mental Health Crisis
The governor also zeroed in on the nationwide shortage of new educators.
“To pull more qualified folks into the profession, increase diversity and begin closing our state’s educator shortage, this budget will support a total of $15 million in stipends for student-teachers and waiving of teacher certification fees,” he said.
Those are two of the initial recommendations from the Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages, which Murphy established by executive order.
In a news release on the address, the governor’s office gave some further details on the breakdown of those proposed investments, noting that the budget includes $20 million in new investments and other supports to help ensure New Jersey has the trained and dedicated workforce to provide a top-quality education for public school students years into the future. “This includes $10 million for student teacher stipends to help future educators meet the costs of living while working and studying for their credentials, $5 million to waive teacher certification fees, $2 million for Culture and Climate Innovation Grants to help improve educator quality of life, $1 million to develop local partnerships for para-professional training, $800,000 for a teacher apprenticeship program, and $500,000 to expand the Teacher Leader Network. The proposed budget also maintains funding for Men of Color Hope Achievers and the Minority Teacher Development Programs to support a diverse educator workforce.”
The budget also tackles the mental health crisis, especially among our youth, Murphy said. “I have made youth mental health the focus of my Chair’s Initiative through the National Governor’s Association,” he said. “And as I work with my colleagues and experts from across the nation in rising to this challenge, I also want to make New Jersey a model.” He continued, “This budget will launch the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services network to help countless more students focus on mental health wellness. And it will enhance our overall investment in the Department of Children and Families and the Children’s System of Care to more fully support the needs of our young people.”
Murphy also pledged to maintain the state’s investment in the Cover All Kids program that ensures every child has access to vital health care coverage, which was featured in last week’s School Board Notes.
For working- and middle-class families, one new piece of relief is the governor’s proposed doubling of the Child Tax Credit that was enacted last year, delivering up to $1,000 per child for families with young children.
The proposed fiscal year 2024 budget also continues the ANCHOR property tax relief program, proposing another $2 billion in direct relief to homeowners and renters.
Murphy also proposed strengthening his “College Promise” programs – the Community College Opportunity Grant and the Garden State Guarantee. The budget proposal increases the eligibility threshold for both programs so that students with family incomes up to $100,000 can benefit, and it increases the value of Tuition Aid Grants for over 20,000 students. It also expands the Some College, No Degree program, so that former students with some credit receive the support they need to complete school.
For more information on the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget, please see the Budget in Brief online.
An additional one-page policy paper on the central commitments outlined in this budget proposal can be found online here.