N.J. releases school aid figures

Posted: March 01, 2014

The Christie administration released proposed school-aid figures Thursday that include additional per-pupil funding in discretionary spending and technology - about $20 per child - and a $5 million innovation fund to explore initiatives such as longer school days.

The total proposed direct school aid is $9 billion, up nearly $37 million from last year.

An additional $3.9 billion will go toward other costs, such as retirement benefits, pensions and construction.

The proposed aid budget would allow the popular Interdistrict Public School Choice Program to grow from 105 districts to 130 districts. The program enables some students from one district to attend schools in another.

While the administration pointed to increased education aid, critics and some districts said the funding does not go far enough.

David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center called the increased direct aid "so paltry as to be irrelevant," and amounts to essentially flat funding in face of rising costs.

He said the Christie administration, in the governor's term, had shorted the state's schools as much as $5 billion in state formula aid, which is based on a district's student population. He predicted that some districts would have to resort to program and staff cuts and increased class sizes.

Joseph Jones, superintendent of the Woodbury City public schools, said his district got less than 74 percent of what it was due under the state school funding formula this year and next year will get even less despite a 0.25 percent aid increase.

Woodbury taxpayers "will suffer either with forced cuts to existing programs or a forced local tax increase" to make up for what the state doesn't fund under its own formula.


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rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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