On Tuesday, June 21, Gov. Chris Christie announced he would seek major changes in the way the state distributes school funding. Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, New Jersey School Boards Association executive director, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Christie’s proposal:
“Throughout its history, the New Jersey School Boards Association has unequivocally opposed changes in state education funding that would create ‘losers’ among students and school districts. The purpose of a state education funding system is to ensure that each and every student has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
NJSBA has always been sensitive to the property tax burden on New Jersey school districts and its impact on their ability to support education programs. Resolving this issue will require a careful, well-thought-out approach that guarantees the funding necessary to meet the education needs of every student.
Our initial response to Governor Christie’s proposal is one of serious concern. We will study the proposal further. However, we will oppose any plan that would reduce funding, force the elimination of existing programs, and thus harm the quality of education for any student.”
The governor’s proposed “Fairness Formula” would eliminate the structure established under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008. Under his plan, each public school district would receive $6,599 per student, based on the current state school aid level of $9.1 billion. Additional funding would continue for special education students. However, newspaper accounts indicate that aid for at-risk students and English language learners would be eliminated.
Said the governor, “75% of all New Jersey would get more state aid under the Fairness Formula,” leading to property tax reductions.
Information released by the governor’s office illustrated current state aid per pupil and spending in the 31 former Abbott districts, which constitute just over 5 percent of the total number of school districts in New Jersey. It also showed the state and property tax benefits of the Fairness Formula for selected non-Abbott districts. However, a list of the proposal’s state aid impact on all districts statewide was not available at press time.
State legislation and/or a constitutional amendment would be necessary to implement the plan. Gov. Chris Christie said on Tuesday that he would promote his proposal across the state this summer.