School Funding

 

IMPORTANT NEWS

NJ Herald: Newton school board, town council support legal action on school funding (11/29/17)

NorthJersey.com: Christie's opioid treatment funding plan robs preschool aid (10/5/17)

NJ.com: Why some N.J. districts could lower tax rates at the 11th hour (7/20/17)

NJ.com: 5 things parents and students should know about N.J.'s new education budget (7/8/17)


  • KEY RESOURCES

FY18 NJ School Funding Database

FY18 NJ School Funding Database by Legislative District

The Sweeney-Prieto School Funding Proposal: An Analysis (Mark Weber, NJ Education Policy Forum, 6/26/17)

FY17 NJ School Funding Database

FY16 NJ School Funding Database 


ADVOCACY by the NEWTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Newton Board of Education and Town Council agree to file joint lawsuit against state for school funding equity (12/4/17)

Why some N.J. districts could lower tax rates at the 11th hour (7/20/17)

Board of Education declares intent to provide any additional state aid as tax relief (6/28/17)

Press release on legislative school aid announcement (6/15/17)

Proposal: Significant steps on a sustainable path toward school funding equity for NJ (5/26/17)

NJSBA Legislative Panel on school funding (5/25/17)

Newton schools demand fair funding in Trenton (5/3/17)

WMBC-TV interview on school funding (2/24/17)

Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on School Funding Fairness (2/2/17)

Testimony before the Assembly Education Committee (1/18/17)

Testimony before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools (1/17/17)

Board of Education resolution on funding fairness (1/27/17)

Press conference to announce the State School Aid Funding Fairness Commission Bill (6/9/16)

Letter to all NJ legislators on school funding inequity (4/11/16)

Testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee (3/21/16)

Meeting with NJDOE officials on school funding concerns (2/1/16)

NJASA On Target: The State Aid Dilemma (December 2015/January 2016)

Public presentation on basic fairness in state aid distribution (12/7/15)


  • STATE AID INEQUITY IN NEW JERSEY

The following overview of the School Funding Reform Act is excerpted from "Shortchanging New Jersey's Students", Education Law Center, July 2014

In 2008, the New Jersey Legislature enacted the first student-based, weighted formula to distribute state aid to schools called the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA).  It is driven by determinations of the cost of resources for all students to achieve the state’s academic standards. The formula delivers weighted funding based on the number of enrolled students who are disabled, and/or economically disadvantaged, and/or limited-English proficient.

The formula also establishes an “adequacy budget” for each school district that reflects the size, grade configuration, and demographic characteristics of the student population based on weighted enrollment. It represents the cost of delivering academic standards to all students based on the formula’s parameters. The adequacy budget is funded through a combination of local taxes and state aid, based on calculations of a municipality’s ability to pay. 

Unfortunately, the SFRA has been consistently underfunded since its inception. In 2010, the Governor proposed, and the Legislature adopted, a budget for FY11 that cut over $1.1 billion, or almost 15%, in state aid from the SFRA formula. Subsequent budgets have failed to properly implement the law, providing minimal and unpredictable state aid increases. 

The Education Law Center (ELC) maintains data on each district's funding situation, including the following graphic on the Newton Public Schools for FY18:

 


TWO PROBLEMS in FY17 = $2 BILLION

$1.4 Billion in Underfunding  +  $600 million in Inequitable Distribution


THE UNDERFUNDING PROBLEM

Underfunding is the larger of the two problems. SFRA, which is legislatively derived and judicially constitutional, is underfunded by approximately $1.4 billion. The state has not funded the formula fully since FY09 and the cumulative effect is nearly $10 billion since then. Presently, the state funds about 85% of the SFRA. An increasing number of unfunded legislative mandates just exacerbates the issue.

This $1.4 billion in underfunding affects every region of the state, all income groups, and all enrollment levels.


THE INEQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION PROBLEM

About $600 million was removed from SFRA funding to provide state aid outside the formula to keep every district at FY08 aid levels. This overfunds some districts at the expense of others, largely in the form of Adjustment Aid.

While the state funds about 85% of the law's intent, the funds are not distributed according to the formula. This is largely due to Adjustment Aid, which was intended to hold some districts harmless from SFRA's changes until total state aid rose to fully fund the formula. However, districts who are well below 85% of their SFRA funding have been harmed every year by the status quo distribution of state aid.

A simple fact will make the point about unfair distribution clear and unambiguous: for the 2016-17 school year, 212 of the state's 591 school districts receive more than 100% of their calculated state aid, while 239 others receive less than 70% of theirs (Newton receives 56%).


FAIR LOCAL SHARE?

A related problem is that many municipalities contribute more than their fair share of the school budget through the local tax levy, while others provide much less than theirs.  If communities choose to pay higher taxes to support a more than adequate budget, then that is their right consistent with the standard of local control. 

However, 123 municipalities are projected to contribute less than 70% of their local fair share next year, and over one-third of them (48) will receive more than the full amount of state aid they are due.  Why should the State provide more than 100% of a school district’s calculated state aid, especially when that community contributes far less than its local fair share?


FUNDING FAIRNESS

Newton is one of 55 school districts in New Jersey that find themselves in a truly distressing situation. These districts:

  1. Have tax levies above 100% of their local fair share;

  2. Have a budget the State considers inadequate; and

  3. Receive less than 70% of their state aid. 

The options for these districts are unreasonably high local taxes or an inadequate school budget: that’s a choice no community should be forced to make, especially when the State has the means to address the problem.

You can find your district's funding situation on a database that includes all NJ districts for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 with separate sheets sorted by the following criteria:

  • Funding Fairness Index (synthesizes spending adequacy, state aid, and local taxation into a single variable)

  • State Aid Received ratio

  • Spending to Adequacy ratio (spending is estimated using FY17 state aid plus 102% of the FY16 tax levy since FY17 tax levy data is unavailable)

  • Tax Levy to Local Fair Share ratio


MEDIA COVERAGE

Senate President Sweeney announces bill to create State School Aid Funding Fairness Commission 6/12/16

Governor Christie proposes equal funding per student (6/21/16)

Tom Moran on Governor Christie's school aid proposal (6/21/16)