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3-2-12 Education Issues in the News
Associated Press - Christie predicts passage for school voucher bill

The Record - Clifton district says additional $2M in state aid still not enough

Associated Press - Christie predicts passage for school voucher bill

Friday March 2, 2012, 8:32 AM  THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

FORT LEE — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he expects to see a pilot school voucher program be passed by the Legislature this year despite objections from the teachers' union.

The governor has been advocating for vouchers that would allow children in failing schools to attend classes outside their district. Opponents say vouchers would drain money from the poorest schools.

Christie joined education experts on a special edition of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" focusing on student achievements.

Friday's show is being broadcast from Fort Lee High School.

The show is featuring conversations about the policies and reforms that will help improve public schools.

Guests include reform advocate Michelle Rhee and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Christie has also proposed abolishing lifetime teacher tenure and basing teacher evaluations partly on student improvement.

The Record - Clifton district says additional $2M in state aid still not enough

Thursday, March 1, 2012 Last Updated: Friday March 2, 2012, 1:23 Am  By Tony Gicas Staff Writer Clifton Journal

CLIFTON – The state released education aid figures for New Jersey's school systems last week and, although the Clifton district saw an increase of nearly $2 million in state funding, the City's administration says it’s still feeling the impact caused by America's 2008 financial crisis.

During the Feb. 21 state budget message Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $32 billion spending plan which would include about $9 billion in aid for New Jersey's public schools.

The budget proposal increases the state's contribution toward the teachers' pension fund from $325 million in fiscal year 2012 to $664 million in FY 2013. Construction debt service, set last fiscal year at about $380 million, would be set at $490 million.

"I believe we have work to do to improve our K-12 education system," Christie said. "We need to reform tenure. We need to pay the best teachers more. We need to expand charter schools in our failing school districts."

Marie Bilik, the New Jersey School Boards Association's executive director, said she "appreciates" the governor's proposed school funding increase but will reserve judgment until reviewing the details of aid distribution per district.

"Since 2008, the economic downturn has posed enormous challenges," Bilik said. "As a result of the financial crisis, New Jersey school districts suffered an $820 million reduction in funding in 2010-2011. The current year’s budget began restoring those cuts by increasing state aid to the 556 non-Abbott districts by $369 million. The proposed school aid increase for 2012-2013 would continue but, on a statewide basis, would not complete the restoration of funding to the non-Abbott districts."

In Clifton, the district received a total of $25.5 million in state aid, an 8 percent increase of its 2011-2012 total of $23.5 million. However, even nearly $5 million in increased aid over the last two years has not restored the state funding Clifton lost when more than $7 million, or 25 percent, was slashed from the City's school budget in 2010. Before the financial crisis, during the 2009-2010 school year, the City's school aid amounted to $27.8 million.

In the summer of 2010, the Education Law Center filed a legal challenge which accused the Christie administration of violating its obligation to fully fund the 2008 formula for distributing school aid.

Last February, in front of a judge appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Superintendent Richard Tardalo testified that the cuts to the Clifton district significantly raised class sizes from about 25 to 29 students on average. Tardalo said restoring state aid to the full amount called for by the state’s formula would allow Clifton to boost individual attention, remedial services, after-school programs and Saturday classes.

Bilik said the NJSBA will strongly advocate for the adequate state funding of all local school districts during the Legislature’s budget deliberation process.

On Tuesday school board president Jim Daley said he is "pleased" with the aid increase and called it "a step in the right direction."

However, Daley expressed his belief that the state must address the exorbitant cost special education places on the taxpayers in municipalities around New Jersey. In Clifton, school officials estimated special education costs amounted to approximately $25 million, or about 18 percent, of the school's total budget.

"I've always pointed out how blatantly underfunded special education is in terms of the ratio of what the City takes on compared to the state," Daley said. "That's not to say the children don't deserve it but that's an extraordinary burden that does not belong on the local taxpayers."

According to Department of Education data, Passaic County districts saw an increase of about $5.5 million in state aid. And, the county received about $730 million in total state aid, 85 percent of which was distributed to Paterson and Passaic.

Paterson and Passaic respectively lost about $863,000 and $1.1 million in state aid from last year. The loss was a drop in the bucket, however, considering the aid totals - $398 million and $225 million - that the two Abbott districts will receive from the state for the 2012-2013 school year.

Email: gicas@northjersey.com


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608