With few surprises — but one big outlier — the Christie administration on Friday released its state-aid figures for New Jersey’s nearly 600 school districts for fiscal 2017.
Hardly surprising was how small actual aid would go up for a vast majority of districts, after Gov. Chris Christie presented a budget plan last week with an overall increase in school aid of just 1 percent. The median increase was around $30,000, less than the cost of a single teacher.
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The big outlier was Newark, which is receiving an additional $26.8 million in state aid – far exceeding any other district in terms of dollars. The next-highest aid amount was an additional $2.6 million to Elizabeth and Plainfield each.
The administration said the aid distribution is based on the state’s school-funding formula, albeit at a fraction of full funding.
Yet the bulk of the additional aid to Newark is from a newly-created fund for districts with big numbers of students in charter schools; the district clearly leads that list statewide.
With the district still under state control and serving as the administration’s poster child for school reform, the additional money also clearly comes with some political considerations attached. It was no secret that the district was in dire financial straits, and state-appointed superintendent Chris Cerf and Mayor Ras Baraka had made a big push for more state help.
There are a few other interesting numbers. After Newark, the highest sums continue to go to the state’s urban districts under the Abbott v. Burke school equity ruling.
But a couple of former Abbott districts were left out as well; there was virtually no aid increase for Asbury Park, Keansburg and East Orange.
Much of the debate is still to come. The administration is scheduled this week to release its latest adjustments to the school-funding formula, part of its Education Adequacy Report.
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