On June 27, the Legislature sent the state’s 2016-2017 budget to the governor for approval. The legislation was passed with bipartisan support in the Senate and by a party-line vote in the General Assembly. The governor signed the budget on June 30, after using his line-item veto authority to reduce it from $34.8 billion to $34.5 billion.
Of the $34.8 billion in the original budget, $13.3 billion was allocated for education. Of that, $9.1 billion was direct aid for schools, with the rest going to the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF), post-retirement benefits for TPAF enrollees and other education-related expenses. It should be noted that the current discussions being held about the governor’s “Fairness Formula” and Senate President Sweeney’s funding review commission applies to future budgets and does not concern the 2016-2017 fiscal and school year funding.
Some of the highlights of the budget pertinent to public schools include:
- $10 million for lead testing in school drinking water. These monies will be disbursed based on an application process for reimbursements developed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).
- Removal of the proposed Opportunity Scholarships Demonstration Program (vouchers).
- $25.9 million for Host District Support Aid which will reimburse school districts for any “hold harmless” overpayments made to charter schools.
- $13.4 million for Professional Learning Community Aid to support the development of learning communities within and across districts.
- Inclusion of Schools Development Authority (SDA) “hold harmless” language to ensure any district paying an SDA assessment will not have an increase in its assessment for 2016-2017.
Line-Item Veto Items Some of the items eliminated or reduced by Gov. Chris Christie’s line-item budget that pertain to education include:
- $25 million for expansion of preschool in 17 districts, which was entirely eliminated.
- $4 million for adult education programs, distributed at a rate of $1,500 per pupil in an approved adult high school, vocational school or vocational-county college partnership program. This item was eliminated.
- Various line-items aiding non-public schools for nursing services, technology and security, which were increased by the Legislature, were reduced to the original levels proposed by the governor.
- A $3 million appropriation by the Legislature for grants to county vocational school districts to partner with urban districts, other school districts, county colleges, and other entities to create high-quality career and technical education programs, to support the development and implementation of a career and technical education program, was reduced to $1 million.