Governor Corzine and his administration continue to work on a new and improved school funding formula. For the fiscal 2008 budget, the Governor has taken interim steps by targeting state aid to districts that are struggling to meet the educational needs of their students.
The total increase in state aid for education, including state aid for teachers’ pensions, social security, post-retirement medical benefits, and school building aid, is $579.1 million.
Of this amount, an increase of over $300 million is allocated for direct aid for school districts.
With these increases, state aid for education is nearly $10.88 billion, a record level of support for New Jersey’s public schools.
Non-Abbott districts will receive an increase of $194 million, the largest single-year increase since FY 2000.
This new funding in the FY 08 budget recognizes that per-pupil spending in many Non-Abbott districts with high concentrations of poverty is well below the state average, and that many districts have high concentrations of poverty that need more assistance in their efforts to provide their students with a thorough and efficient education.
Increases are distributed in the greatest percentages to districts with the greatest needs.
The Non-Abbott District Factor Group A districts, which are the least affluent, will see on average a 10.3 percent increase in state aid;
B districts will get on average a 9.1 percent increase in state aid;
CD districts will see on average an 8 percent increase in state aid;
DE districts will see on average a 5.4 percent increase in state aid;
FG districts will get on average a 4.3 percent increase,
GH districts will see on average a 4.1 percent increase; and
I and J districts will see on average increases of 3.3 and 3 percent, respectively.
Funding guarantees spending parity in all 31 Abbott districts, in accordance with court directives.
The budget also includes an increase in Education Opportunity Aid that amounts to a 3% increase in state aid for the Abbott districts. However, the specific allocation to individual Abbott districts will be determined by DOE in the Abbott budget review process.
The Abbott districts will also receive an increase of $3.1 million in Preschool Expansion Aid (which represents a $19.1 million increase in actual expenditures over the current fiscal year.)
Full-Day Kindergarten Supplemental Aid
Governor Corzine has included $26 million to assist districts that are currently providing full-day kindergarten. In so doing, the Governor recognizes that districts that have paid their own way to expand to full day kindergarten deserve and need additional support from the state to provide this educational benefit to students and their families. The longer-term goal will be to increase the number of full-day kindergarten programs over time.
The additional funding for full-day kindergarten will be distributed according to community wealth. Based on this method, 185 districts will see increases in state aid for full-day kindergarten in fiscal 2008.
Targeted At-Risk Aid for Low-Income Students
The Governor’s budget recognizes that districts throughout New Jersey have high concentrations of low-income students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch. For example, there are 217 non-Abbott districts in which 15 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
Districts in which students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch comprise 15-20 percent of total enrollment, will receive an additional $250 per low-income student. Districts with 20 percent or more students that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch will receive a $500 per low-income student under this new aid category.
The additional funds must be spent on programs such as literacy programs, preschool and full-day kindergarten, to help close the achievement gap for the low-income students in these communities.
Preschool Expansion and Enhancement Grants
The Governor has included $10 million in his budget for Preschool Quality Enhancement grants. The grants recognize the need to expand existing preschool programs and improve the quality of existing preschool programs in a strategic and responsible manner.
A portion of the $10 million will be set aside for a needs assessment of non-Abbott districts to we can determine the existing capacity for preschool expansion – and what work needs to be done.
The remainder will go to fund grants to providers serving the neediest students in Non-Abbott districts.