Who Wins or Loses in NJ School-Funding Compromise? Find Out Here
TRENTON — If the school-funding compromise struck by Democratic legislative leaders gets enacted, 379 districts would share $146 million in additional aid for the school year that starts in September but 126 others would lose $46 million.
District-level details of the compromise struck Wednesday were made public Thursday morning. It wouldn’t change aid for the coming year for 74 districts – but would mean aid increases of 10 percent or more for 70 districts, and aid reductions of 5 percent or more for 50 districts.
Those changes reflect proposed differences from what districts were promised in early March, when the state Department of Education sent aid notices shortly after Christie proposed the budget in a speech to the Legislature. Districts have adopted budgets based on those figures.
The changes would require the agreement of Gov. Chris Christie, who had asked lawmakers to come up with a school-funding fix by early June but isn’t yet convinced of the merits of the current plan.
“The governor is willing to consider the proposal but he has some concerns about fairness,” said spokesman Brian Murray.
In terms of dollars, not percentages, here are the biggest winners and losers:
Districts that would see aid increase by $1M or more:
|Middlesex||New Brunswick City||$3,305,069|
|Middlesex||North Brunswick Twp||$3,087,935|
|Passaic||Passaic County Vocational||$2,039,360|
|Somerset||Bound Brook Boro||$1,731,843|
|Hudson||West New York Town||$1,707,228|
|Essex||West Orange Town||$1,682,789|
|Atlantic||Egg Harbor Twp||$1,626,958|
|Mercer||East Windsor Regional||$1,620,608|
|Atlantic||Atlantic Co Vocational||$1,387,398|
|Hudson||North Bergen Twp||$1,374,173|
|Essex||City Of Orange Twp||$1,318,095|
|Camden||Cherry Hill Twp||$1,143,421|
|Bergen||Ridgefield Park Twp||$1,115,355|
|Middlesex||Perth Amboy City||$1,057,522|
|Somerset||North Plainfield Boro||$1,053,432|
Districts that would see aid drop by $1M or more:
|Ocean||Toms River Regional||$3,324,453|
See full list of school districts — scroll to end of article.
The drop in Jersey City would be $8.5 million – which amounts to a 2 percent cut in state aid. The reduction is Toms River would be $3.3 million, a close to 5 percent drop in state aid.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson, said he didn’t want to take money from any districts for the upcoming school year, because they’ve already adopted budgets, but that he had to compromise.
“Given we minimized the amount of aid that is taken from some districts and that will hopefully be able to live with that in this year," Prieto said.
The changes produce a net loss in state aid to schools in 10 of the 40 legislative districts. Those include six of the seven that border the Atlantic coast, all but Atlantic County's 2nd District. Six of the 10 are among the 13 districts where all three state lawmakers are Republicans.
Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, said the adjusted aid figures reflect the results of actually running the school funding formula, then limiting the reductions to 1.5 percent of a district's budget.
"There was no games played, no favoritism played to any one particular school district, no favorites played with regards to partisan politics," Sarlo said. "We ran the formula and took a percentage off of those that were overfunded. So there was no games, no brinkmanship, no favoritisms played here."
Republicans haven't like the School Funding Reform Act since it was adopted in 2008. Christie wanted to scrap it entirely in favor of one that provided equal per-pupil aid to all districts regardless of their socioeconomic status but has dropped the idea.
Elizabeth and Newark gain the most money under the plan, roughly $7.5 million each, followed by Atlantic City at $6 million and Woodbridge at $5.7 million. For 11 districts, the changes would boost state financial support by more than 25 percent.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said school funding is one of the most important things the Legislature needs to focus on.
“This is step one, and we said this was going to be a multiple step process to get to full funding,” Sweeney said. “Step one was to start getting the formula back into play.”
Step two, presuming Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy wins in November, is a hike in income taxes for rich.
“Next year, January, and we will do it when the new governor is sworn in, the day the new governor is sworn in, we will put up a millionaires tax. It will generate a minimum of $600 million” and bring every district in the state over 70 percent of full formula funding, Sweeney said.
“It’s a process. It’s going to take time. But in two years, we are going to really make an enormous amount of progress. So for me, this is the beginning,” Sweeney said. “… We’ve said it’s going to take five years. It might take seven years. But we absolutely can fully fund the formula, and we will fully fund the formula.”
The school-aid changes planned by legislative leaders would also add $25 million for preschool programs, focused on districts with higher concentrations of poverty that don’t qualify for the full-day preschool funded to comply with state Supreme Court rulings.
The distribution of that aid isn’t reflected in the district-level breakdowns, as it would be determined later based on competitive bidding by the eligible districts.