New Jersey’s fiscal 2023 budget will dedicate about 24% of its total expenditures to direct aid to education, Gov. Phil Murphy said in his annual budget address March 8, emphasizing how those investments would ease property taxes for New Jersey residents.
The fiscal year budget provides $19.2 billion in funding for pre-K to 12 education (including $857.1 million from the Lottery Enterprise Contribution Act), an increase of $550 million over the previous year.
Commenting on property taxes and how it relates to school funding, Murphy said, “In 70 percent of our municipalities, local schools alone account for more than half of the average property tax bill — more than are collected by all county and municipal governments, local libraries, and fire districts, added together. And the reality is that every state dollar we provide to a school district is a dollar they, in turn, don’t have to ask from property taxpayers.”
The budget and its focus on education “is a signal to every property taxpayer that we are partners in their community’s success,” Murphy said. “With more aid for our public schools and a full pension payment, this budget will continue to apply downward pressure against property taxes.”
Great schools protect a homeowner’s investment, Murphy observed. “They make communities more attractive to prospective new residents. They prepare our workforce for the future. No one wants to see our schools backslide.”
He noted that during his administration’s first four years, it invested $3 billion more in K-12 education for public schools than the prior administration did across its last four. “This continues our progress,” he said. “Our budget will increase this aid by an additional $650 million dollars — for a total of $9.9 billion.”
He continued, “This budget provides nearly $2 billion more for K-through-12 classrooms than when I took office in 2018. And we are directing additional new investments this year to mitigate the academic challenges that hit far too many students and their families over the past two years.”
That figure does not include the state’s commitment to making sure students have modern schools in which to learn — and this year the state will invest $430 million in school construction and renovation to deliver on that promise, Murphy said. “Every single dollar of it is a dollar invested in our future and in property tax relief,” he said.
Expanded Pre-K Programs
The governor also focused on his efforts to expand access to pre-K programs.
“Since 2018, and in partnership with you and our school districts, we’ve increased pre-K investments to date by almost $250 million — and expanded pre-K by nearly 9,000 seats in the process,” he said.
“We’re going to add another nearly $70 million to this total in this upcoming year —$40 million of which will support the creation of another nearly 3,000 new pre-K seats. Last year I put forward a vision of providing universal access to pre-K for every young learner ages 3 and 4, and this budget will keep us moving toward this goal.”
Access to pre-K helps young learners while making life more affordable for working parents, Murphy said. “And specifically, it helps the working mothers who have shouldered an increasingly unbalanced burden — particularly during the pandemic — in trying to achieve work-life balance,” he said.
The governor also noted the state would expand the reach of its Community College Opportunity Grant Program for a fifth year “and we will make the second year of support for the Garden State Guarantee, which can provide two years of study at one of our four-year public colleges and universities, tuition-free to thousands of eligible students,” he said. “We will also continue our landmark investments in Tuition Aid Grants and the Educational Opportunity Fund.”
Navigating the Pandemic and More
The governor prefaced his prepared remarks by noting his administration is assessing what financial or business exposure the state has to Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, including via investments in pension funds.
“Let me make it perfectly clear,” he said. “We will take whatever actions are needed to ensure New Jersey taxpayers are not supporting Putin’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
He also observed that March 7 — the day prior to delivering his budget address — was the first time in almost two years that children and educators were together without a statewide requirement to wear masks in schools.
“This was the right step, taken at the right time,” he said. “We are at this point where pandemic is turning into endemic only because of the hard work put in by so many of our 9.3 million fellow New Jerseyans.”
He also commented on the school funding formula, observing, “We were told we’d never be able to properly and fully fund our school funding formula. Standing here today, together we have invested more in our public schools than at any other point in our state’s history — and we’re on the path to fully funding our obligation to our kids and their parents, our educators, and our property taxpayers.” He added, “This is especially critical as we work to undo the learning loss and meet the mental health challenges posed by the past two years.”
Read the full New Jersey Budget in Brief. Some of the highlights from the budget include:
An additional $650 million in direct formula K-12 aid. Since 2018, the state has increased K-12 formula aid by almost $1.2 billion. This continues the funding schedule pursuant to the school funding reform law commonly referred to as “S-2”.
- The governor will work with the Legislature on developing student mental health and success initiatives with American Rescue Plan funds to help students of all ages who have been impacted by the pandemic.
- $20 million for Stabilization Aid to assist districts in implementing plans to adjust to their new funding levels under “S-2”.
- $13.5 million for Military Impact Aid, which is a component of the formula aid figures.
- $430 million for school construction and renovation to reduce borrowing.
- More than 40% of the state budget will be distributed through school aid to districts, or municipal aid payments to towns and cities across New Jersey. Appropriations of this type are referred to in the budget as state aid, and total $20.8 billion.
- $2 million for a new Reading Acceleration and Professional Integrated Development grant program within DOE, which is intended to assess learning loss statewide so the Department of Education can develop long-term recommendations.
- Funding for the $10 million Local Efficiency Achievement Program and $5 million to implement regional school consolidation to effectuate P.L.2021, c.402, the school district regionalization measure enacted in January.
- $68 million in new spending for pre-K, $40 million of which will be used to assist approximately 40 new districts that are ready to launch programs for 3,000 more students. If enacted, the budget would provide nearly $1 billion for preschool education aid, or $310 million more than when the governor took office.
- $80 million for the Schools Development Authority and the New Jersey Department of Education to award to districts for capital maintenance and emergent needs, which includes $50 million for SDA districts, $25 million for non-SDA districts, and $5 million for charter schools.
- $5 million to districts to implement new climate change education standards.
- $400 million in Extraordinary Special Education Aid, the same as the current fiscal year.
- $1.1 million to start the Teacher Loan Redemption Program (P.L.2021, c.384) and the STEM Loan Redemption Program (P.L.2018, c.142).