After a spring of state budget cuts, the new financial reality hits New Jersey public schools next month when they reopen their classrooms to some 1.3 million students.
What is that reality? Four in five districts say they will have fewer teachers and other staff than last year, in some cases far fewer. And all extracurricular programs are likely to take a hit.
Even if the economy rebounds, the tight financial constraints are not going away anytime soon. Gov. Chris Christie won a 2 percent tax cap on schools, and is pressing for more limits on administrative pay, teacher contracts and other big-ticket expenses as a way to combat what he says are runaway property taxes.
So how does New Jersey best fix this funding crisis for schools? Does the state need to rethink how it pays its teachers and administrators? What is fair and equitable for districts, while addressing a reliance on property taxes that many agree is untenable? These are just some of the questions facing Christie, the legislature and local communities in the months ahead, with the state Supreme Court likely to have some say, too.
To prepare for the discussions to come, here are a few suggested topics, sites and readings. Some may be familiar to the wonks out there, but others are gems that can teach everyone something new.