BY STEVE ADUBATO only in new jersey
Christie plan puts new focus on school funding.
;; ;;;;;;; ;;;;, Governor Chris
Christie’s proposed “fairness formula”
for school funding has dramatically
changed the conversation about state
aid for education.
Under Christie’s plan, which he
revealed in June, all of the state’s ;;;
school districts would receive the same
;;,;;; per student in state aid. For decades, ;; urban school districts (known
as Abbott Districts) have received a
higher share of state funding in accordance with a series of decisions by the
state Supreme Court.
Christie’s plan would be a windfall
for the majority of the state’s municipalities, which would be required to
use the excess funding they receive to
reduce local property taxes.
Because the high court established
the current school-funding rules,
Christie’s plan would require an
amendment to the state constitution.
Many Republicans contend that
suburban communities carry
a disproportionate share of the burden
of funding urban schools through their
Further, the governor argues that
all those state dollars going to urban
schools have been a colossal waste.
He points out that graduation rates in
places like Camden, New Brunswick,
Trenton, Newark and Asbury Park—
districts that get some of the highest
percentages of state aid—are well below
the state average. Asbury Park High
School, for example, gets ;;;,;;; per
student but had just a ;; percent graduation rate in ;;;;, among the worst in
the state. That, says Christie, is graphic
evidence that more state aid does not
equate to better schools.
To some, that makes sense. Others,
particularly those focused on the needs
of urban children, see things di;erently.
Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO
of Advocates for Children of New Jer-
sey, believes the plan will be a “setback”
for children in low-income communi-
ties. “The New Jersey
Supreme Court held more
than ;; years ago that en-
suring educational equity
for all children requires
additional funding for
children in poor commu-
nities to overcome disad-
vantage. That need has not changed,”
says Zalkind. “Fair funding implies that
all children have the same advantages;
that is simply not true.” Zalkind argues
that the governor’s plan will create an
“opportunity gap” for urban, largely
Other organizations, including the
Education Law Center, the organiza-
tion that brought the original case for
increased funding for urban school
districts to the state Supreme Court, as
well as the NJEA, are against the gover-
nor’s plan—as might be expected.
With Democrats, many representing
urban areas, controlling both houses of
the state Legislature, it is unlikely we
will see a statewide referendum on the
necessary amendment. Such a referen-
dum would require legislative approval.
So why bring it up?
I’d like to believe that the governor is
trying to kick-start an important discussion on funding for urban schools
and how the expense a;ects property
taxes. We agree that simply spending
more money in urban districts isn’t the
answer, and suburban property taxes
are out of control. However, to say that
kids in urban areas should get the same
amount of state money for their education as kids in suburban areas grossly
oversimplifies a multifaceted situation.
These kids have lots of needs and challenges that suburban kids don’t face.
And the state constitution says every
citizen in New Jersey is responsible to
address that imbalance.
In the long run, reduced funding for
urban districts might make them more
e;cient and e;ective, as Christie contends, but in the short term, an entire
generation of urban kids is at greater
risk, which leads one to ask, is that really “fair”?
proposal at a public forum in June
in Wall Township,
one of the many
could see tax cuts
under the plan.
STEVE ADUBATO, PHD. is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/ WNET (PBS) and NJTV (PBS) who regularly appears on the Today Show,
CNN, FOX News and on many New York-based radio stations. His new book, Lessons in Leadership, o;ers lasting leadership strategies that all leaders can implement. For more information, log on to stand-deliver.com. Find Steve on Facebook @steveadubatophd and Twitter @SteveAdubato.