School Districts Learn Specific Amounts of State-Aid Increases

John Mooney | February 28, 2014 | Education
Christie’s budget calls for funding hike of less than half of 1 percent, amounting to about $20 more per student

20dollar-bills money
Two days after Gov. Chris Christie unveiled his austere state budget for fiscal 2015, school districts yesterday got their first look at how more than $9 billion in state aid will be distributed next year.

See your district’s individual totals in NJ Spotlight’s search tool.

The numbers vary widely, from nearly $1 million in additional aid going to some of the larger districts to a just a few thousand dollars more allotted for smaller districts.

By and large, it wasn’t much more money for anyone, and basically came down to one number: an average increase in state aid amounting to about $20 more per student.

That was the bottom line in the aid numbers released yesterday – Gov. Chris Christie is increasing state aid next year by less than half of a percent, or about $38 million overall for the entire state. And the bulk of it will be the specific $20 increase per student on top of last year’s totals.

In the end, the totals ranged from as much as $955,000 more in Newark and $610,000 in Jersey City to less than $5,000 more in close to 50 tiny districts like Avalon and Essex Fells.

But those numbers could be deceiving. While seeing the largest dollar totals, the largest urban districts were facing the smallest percentage boost, with the majority of the districts falling under the Abbott v. Burke school equity rulings ending up with just .1 percent more over this year’s aid figure.

Statewide, the typical district was seeing about $30,000 more.

With numbers like that, few local school officials were hardly satisfied, and some said it continued a trend in which Christie has underfunded public education. Advocates for urban schools said the minute increases for their districts fall well short of addressing their severe needs – or even to just keep up with inflation.

But there was little outcry, either, as there was more a sense of resignation rather than protests.

Christie’s proposed education spending moves to the Legislature’s respective budget committees, which will hold hearings in the coming months.