Fine Print: School Aid

The governor gives something back to almost every school district in the Garden State

Summary: The Christie administration yesterday released the details of how school aid will be distributed to individual districts under his proposed $29.4 billion state budget announced the day before. Gov. Chris Christie announced that the budget calls for an increase of nearly $250 million in aid to schools, distributed to every district in the state, a small rebound from the nearly $1 billion cut last year.

The message in the numbers: “The basic message is that last year, the schools gave tremendously, and the governor in this budget has given disproportionately back to them,” said Chris Cerf, acting education commissioner.

Wide range: By and large, districts will receive an increase that is equivalent to 1 percent of their overall 2010 budgets, as Christie said in his budget address on Tuesday. But how that ends up varies widely by district, with urban districts getting the larger dollar amounts but suburban districts getting by far the bigger percentage increases. More than 200 districts won at least double-digit percentage increases.

Examples: Newark is seeing a 1 percent increase from last year’s aid total, but that amounts to $8.5 million, the largest increase in the state. But among dozens of districts losing virtually all of their aid last year, Paramus tops the percentage list in seeing a nearly 100-fold jump — from $7,800 to $710,000.

The biggest winner: Edison, the state’s fifth largest district, is getting both a big dollar amount and a big percentage increase. Its aid will go up about 25 percent, or $1.95 million. Nevertheless, that comes after the district lost nearly $10 million last year.

The exception: Not every district saw an increase, after all. The one-school Washington Township in Burlington County was the sole district not to see its state aid rise. A spokesman for the state education department said it was an unusual case due to the school losing two children who had been part of the state’s inter-district choice program, and in turn the $22,000 in extra aid that follows them.