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School Funding in New Jersey

 

STATEWIDE FUNDING ANALYSES

 

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KEY RESOURCES


AN OVERVIEW OF STATE AID INEQUITY IN NEW JERSEY

Much of this brief overview 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 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. 
The SFRA has been consistently underfunded since its inception. 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 failed to properly implement the law, providing minimal and unpredictable state aid increases.
In FY18 and FY19, the Governor and Legislature agreed to appropriate significant funding to the formula and distribute it to the most underaided districts. In August 2019, Governor Murphy signed S-2 after passage in the Senate and Assembly, led by Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin, respectively. S-2 modernized SFRA by removing growth caps for FY20 and setting adjustment aid on a six year path to sunset.

THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK

  1. DOES YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT SPEND AT OR ABOVE ITS ADEQUACY BUDGET ?
  2. DOES YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT RECEIVE ITS FAIR SHARE OF STATE AID ?
  3. DOES YOUR MUNICIPALITY PROVIDE ITS FAIR SHARE OF LOCAL TAXES ?

For the answers to these questions, access the statewide database of all 591 NJ school districts for Fiscal Year 2019 with sheets sorted by these criteria:

State Aid Ratio (percentage of uncapped SFRA aid received)

Tax Levy Ratio (percentage of local fair share contributed)

Budget Adequacy Ratio (percentage of adequacy budget spent)

Funding Fairness Index (a single metric illustrating funding equity)

 

The data is also sorted for each of NJ's 40 Legislative Districts.

 


The NEWTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS and FAIR FUNDING

The State of New Jersey has underaided school districts for over four decades dating back to the enactment of the state income tax in 1976, which never achieved its objective of providing state aid to schools in an equitable manner. Since 2015, the Newton Public Schools have been a statewide leader in advocating for fair funding.  These efforts culminated in the 2018 passage of S-2, setting the State on a sustainable path to school funding equity.

 

The Education Law Center maintains data on each NJ school district's funding situation, including the following graphic on the Newton Public Schools for FY19: