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The List: For These 10 Districts, More School Aid Still Means Much Less

Gov. Murphy wants to boost school aid to most districts, but many would still get significantly less than they would if fully funded under state formula

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The good news from Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget proposal is that nearly all New Jersey public school districts would share in the $283 million in addition aid he recommended.

The bad news is that almost 92 percent of those districts are getting less money than they are supposed to under the state’s school-funding formula. According to data released by the state Department of Education, districts are getting about $809 million — or 9 percent — less than they should under the 2008 School Funding Reform Act. And those numbers include caps allowed by the law. Were caps not in place, the underfunding of the SFRA would be even higher, though by how much is unclear, as the DOE did not release that data.

Under Murphy’s recommendation, 510 districts will get less than the School Funding Reform Act calls for next year. (The governor promised on the campaign trail that he would fully fund the formula, although he also said it would take some time.) SFRA is a 2008 law linking state aid to student need, with an “adequacy budget” for each district based on factors such as special education, English-language learners, and at-risk low-income students. The state Supreme Court upheld the SFRA in 2009, so despite arguments that it is flawed, it is state law.

Murphy’s proposed aid increase is the biggest in nearly a decade and in his budget message, he pledged to fully fund the formula within four years. However, he also called on the Legislature to work with him on a new plan that would be “fair” and could be fully funded.

Since districts never get the amounts to which they are entitled under SFRA, officials find it hard to explain how their aid allocations are determined. The DOE said in a statement that it ran the formula and “each district received a quarter of the increase due as the first step in phasing-in to full funding.” Other types of aid increased the total.

The result was good news/bad news for virtually all districts. Newark is an extreme. The state’s largest public school district is set to get a 5 percent aid increase next year, to nearly $788 million. However, that’s still $112 million less than its entitlement under the formula, according to the DOE data. While that’s the largest dollar amount any district is being shortchanged based on the formula, as a percentage of total aid entitlement – 14.3 percent – it is a smaller underfunding than about a third of all districts.

Some Republican lawmakers are already complaining that schools within their districts are being underfunded, while Jersey City and other urban schools covered by the Supreme Court’s Abbott v Burke rulings are in some cases, overfunded. Abbott vs. Burke requires the state to give enough aid to these districts to ensure their students receive a “thorough and efficient” education.

Follow this link to view an NJ Spotlight database showing the amounts by which districts are being underfunded.

These are the districts getting the smallest proportion of the amount to which they are entitled under the formula, as it is capped:

1. Haworth

This Bergen County district is slated to get $263,228 in aid, which is 42.5 percent less than the $375,144 it would get were the formula fully funded. Still, this K-8 district is getting 16.5 percent more than it received in the current budget.

2. Shore Regional

This high school district serving four communities in Monmouth County is set to get 42.2 percent less in school aid than the formula requires. The district, located in West Long Branch, would get $549,018 under the governor’s proposal, which is $231,451 less than it should but still 16.4 percent more than this year.

3. Spring Lake

This Monmouth district is slated to get $233,324 in aid, which is 41.2 percent less than the $329,377 it would get were the formula fully funded. Still, this PK-8 district is getting 15.9 percent more than it received in the current budget.

4. Mendham Township

This elementary district in Morris County is set to get 40.6 percent less in aid than the formula requires. The district would get $546,193 under the governor’s proposal, which is $221,941 less than it should but still 15.7 percent more than this year.

5. Manasquan

This Monmouth district is slated to get $721,224 in aid, which is 40.1 percent less than the $1.01 million it would get were the formula fully funded. Still, this K-12 district is getting 15.4 percent more than it received in the current budget.

6. Paramus

This K-12 district is set to get 39.8 percent less in school aid than the formula requires. The Bergen district would get $2.54 million under the governor’s proposal, which is $1.01 million less than it should but still 15.3 percent more than this year.

6. (tied) Point Pleasant Beach

This Ocean County district is slated to get $583,748 in aid, which is 39.8 percent less than the $816,193 it would get were the formula fully funded. Still, this PK-8 district is getting 15.3 percent more than it received in the current budget.

8. Franklin Lakes

This PK-12 school district in Bergen is set to get 39.5 percent less in school aid than the formula requires. The district would get $909,154 under the governor’s proposal, which is $359,460 less than it should but still 15.2percent more than this year.

9. Harrington Park

This Bergen district is slated to get $364,802 in aid, which is 39 percent less than the $506,952 it would get were the formula fully funded. Still, this elementary district is getting 14.9 percent more than it received in the current budget.

10. Midland Park

This PK-12 district in Bergen is set to get 38.5 percent less in aid than the formula requires. The district would get $742,564 under the governor’s proposal, which is $286,216 less than it should but still 14.7 percent more than this year.

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