Proposed School Aid Has Some Lawmakers Crying Foul

NJ Spotlight News | February 28, 2012 | Education
Gov. Chris Christie's announcement that he would increase school aid in for the first time in 2 years caused members from both parties to sound off.

In his budget address, Gov. Chris Christie announced he would increase school aid for the first time in 2 years — $213 million above last year’s level. But the announcement caused members from both parties to sound off. Republican members from Sussex, Warren and Morris counties, where the formula cuts aid, immediately asked for reforms of the school funding formula.

Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the NJ School Boards Association, says the types of school districts that have been affected by cuts are across the board. He says pockets of rural and suburban districts had reductions in state aid while some Abbott districts maintained the same level or had increases.

For now, the lion’s share of the proposed aid would be spread among middle class neighborhoods.

Lynne Strickland, Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, a grassroots organization representing about 100 suburban districts, says the proposed aid would bring much needed relief.

“In general, we’re getting an increase in aid and some a substantial one relative to the amount of aid they had lost. And a lot of these districts don’t get much state aid to begin with so their percentage increase is higher, but it’s relative to the amount that they get.”

The breakdown in aid is all part of a complicated school funding formula.

According to Bellluscio, “the amount of aid a district receives is based on its property evaluation … and also the income of its residents.”

This year, cities like East Orange and Camden stand to lose about $3 to $5 million. Still, he says nearly 500 districts stand to gain.

“It was approximately 90 to 95 districts that did have cuts in aid to education,” said Belluscio. “Now a large number of them, when the aid was broken out per pupil, they did not have any cuts. So clearly, that was a change in enrollment numbers.”

Reporting from Trenton, State House Bureau Chief Briana Vannozzi files this report.