Christie’s controversial ‘fairness formula’ could change N.J. school funding

 New Jersey education and civil rights advocates say Gov. Chris Christie’s 'fairness formula' would hurt public education in the state's poorest districts. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey education and civil rights advocates say Gov. Chris Christie’s 'fairness formula' would hurt public education in the state's poorest districts. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Gov. Chris Christie will deliver his final budget address to the New Jersey Legislature next week — and education and civil rights advocates hope it won’t include his “fairness formula.”

The governor has proposed providing the same amount of per-pupil funding to every district in the state.

Betsy Ginsburg with the Garden State Coalition of Schools said she hopes Christie will scrap that idea.

“We believe that it is a misconceived Band-aid solution for high suburban property taxes that will trigger a fatal educational hemorrhage in the state’s poorest districts,” Ginsburg said.

East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor, who called Christie’s proposal “draconian,” said the change would have devastating effects on poor districts and their students.

“New Jersey is one of the most affluent states in the country, yet we are still in 2017 one of the most segregated states in the country,” Taylor said. “This proposed fairness formula will exacerbate that.”

If Christie budgets school-funding based on his fairness formula, Thomas Puryear with the NAACP said advocates are prepared to do whatever they can legally to stop it.

“We’re going to petition the school districts to take the appropriate steps to come forward to indicate they don’t have adequate funds to do a thorough and efficient education,” he said.

Assembly Education Committee chairwoman Marlene Caride said suggestions made at a series of hearings could help lawmakers reach a compromise to tweak the current school funding formula.

“I don’t think that we’re looking to dismantle this formula. We’re trying to find a way to be able to fund it with whatever money we can get out of the budget for it,” said Caride, D-Bergen.

Assemblyman Robert Auth says an election year might be the ideal time for those discussion.

“If we’re not careful, there will be enough people that are upset, and they’ll just change the entire composition of the legislature,” said Auth, R-Bergen. “So that might scare some of the political folk to get on the stick and start moving.”

Some districts now spend more than the funding formula requires. Others struggle to meet their needs.

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