Next year’s school aid: Two-thirds gain funds, one-third lose
FAIR LAWN – Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey districts would receive increases in state aid next school year under Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget plan, according to figures released Thursday. Another one-third of districts lose funding.
Funds distributed through the state’s aid formula are on track to increase by 6.7% in 2021-22, up $578 million to nearly $9.3 billion. Murphy said that has increased $1.5 billion over his four years in office.
Total direct aid to schools, including for things like special education and preschool, would be $10.8 billion. Add in state spending on teachers’ pensions, health benefits and Social Security and payments on school construction and pension bonds and school spending tops $18 billion, or 40% of the budget.
“After years of chronic underfunding of our classrooms, we’re getting back to where we need to be,” Murphy said. “This is good for our students. This is good for our educators. This is good for our district and school leaders. And this is good for our educational communities.”
The state adopted its current funding formula in 2008 but only stuck to it for one year, abandoning it when the Great Recession wrecked revenues. Murphy and the Legislature agreed to gradually transition back to the formula over seven years and would be back on track after skipping it this year.
“It will allow us to continue to chip away, dollar by dollar … at the high property taxes that have hamstrung so many middle-class homeowners and especially seniors who look at their property tax bill and see on average 53% of it is for public education, yet their kids have graduated,” Murphy said.
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“About two-thirds of districts will see an increase in state aid as the budget message calls for the full scheduled phase-in under S-2,” said acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan.
More precisely, 64.4% of districts gain a combined $770.4 million in state aid. That list is headed by Newark, gaining nearly $86 million; Elizabeth, gaining nearly $36 million; and Trenton, up more than $31 million. In 17 districts, aid allocations are increasing by more than one-third.
There is no change in the aid to 12 districts, seven of which are county vocational school systems.
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However, the remaining one-third of districts lose a combined $192.5 million in funds. In more than half of those, state aid drops by 10% or more. In dollar terms, the biggest drop is in Jersey City, down $71 million. Eight of the 11 biggest drops are in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
“This proposal also includes a $50 million allocation of stabilization aid, to assist school districts with implementing plans to adjust to new funding levels under S-2,” Allen-McMillan said.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.