No N.J. School District Will Have State Aid Cut Next Year; 40 Districts Get Increase of $1

Jessica Calefati | The Star-Ledger
03/01/13

TRENTON — For the first time in four years, no public school district will see its state aid cut by the Christie administration, according to statistics released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

Two-thirds of the state’s districts will get increased funding, but in most cases, the bumps are modest. Next school year, funding in 129 districts will increase by less than 1 percent. In 40 districts — including Westfield, South Brunswick and Nutley — the increase seemed a bit cosmetic: they got $1 more than they received this year, but the general feeling was at least it’s not a cut.

tr0312christie 1 KURDZUK.JPGGov. Chris Christie talks to a class at Bordentown Regional High School in 2012. Christie released his 2014 budget, including nearly $9 billion in education funding, this week. District-by-district state aid figures were released today.

Overall, Christie plans to spend $97.3 million more on the state’s public schools in fiscal year 2014, bringing total K-12 school spending to nearly $9 billion. During his budget address earlier this week, Christie said the money must come with a commitment to spend the cash more wisely.

"Throughout my time in office, I have continuously argued that in order to grow New Jersey’s economy we must invest in education," Christie said in a statement.

"However, even as we continue to fund education at the highest levels in state history, we must remain willing to reflect on how we are spending our money and work towards solutions that make every dollar we invest count," he added.

With the possibility of federal sequestration cuts and potential expensive school security enhancements looming, Christie’s announcement was welcome news, said Frank Belluscio, acting deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association."However, even as we continue to fund education at the highest levels in state history, we must remain willing to reflect on how we are spending our money and work towards solutions that make every dollar we invest count," he added.

"The fact that the state increased overall funding this year is very important and is appreciated," Belluscio said.

In Florham Park, the state aid increase is one dollar, from $466,423 to $466,424.

Superintendent William Ronzitti said he was pleased with the aid allocation. The economy is still struggling and many school districts have not recovered from Hurricane Sandy, he said.

"We weren’t cut, and that’s a good thing. That means we don’t have to look at our budget and cut programs," he said. "I think the fact the governor was able to keep us essentially flat was a very good thing for the children."

Eighteen districts will get funding increases of more than $1 million, including East Orange, New Brunswick and Elizabeth.

Morris Hills Regional will see its funding increase by $1.1 million compared with last year, an increase of 17.7 percent, but all of that money comes from its participation in the interdistrict public school choice program, which Christie expanded in 2010.

Morris County’s regional high school district is not the only one whose overall aid bump is heavily padded with interdistrict choice funding. Among the 378 districts with funding increases, 60 will get interdistrict-choice aid that is greater than or equal to their overall funding boosts.

Some members of the Legislature and school reform advocates have lashed out at Christie in recent weeks for proposing to spend less on students who are poor, learning English or classified as special needs. It’s unclear if those cuts are reflected in this year’s budget. 

** To see full chart please visit www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/03/no_district_will_have_state_ai.html

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