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NJ School Funding

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Joined: 16 Jun 2003
Posts: 56
Location: Medford, NJ

PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:12 pm    Post subject: NJ School Funding Reply with quote

Why are your taxes so high in Medford NJ? 55% of the state spending for schools goes to 22% of the student population in the so-called "Abbott Districts". This has had the effect of freezing state aid to the Medford Township Board of Education and the Lenape Regional High School District, while our property taxes have nearly doubled during these past 9 years to make up the difference. Per-pupil spending in "Abbott District" schools was $14,287 in 2006, versus a statewide average of $11,056.

Abbott districts have spent at these high levels without any requirement to raise their local levy beyond the amount raised in FY1998. That has resulted in significant increases in per pupil spending in Abbott districts without any corresponding increase in local property taxes. As a result, the average equalized school tax rate of the Abbott districts is 0.639, a rate 36% below the State average of 0.998. Translated into a measure of tax levy per pupil, Abbott districts have remained virtually flat, ranging from $1,971 to $2,037 per pupil.

In contrast, the school tax levy per pupil in other District Factor Group A&B districts was $4,792 in FY1998 and had grown to $7,126 in FY2006. Over the same period, the state average per pupil levy climbed from $5,330 in FY1998 to $7,688 in FY2006.

Don't like it? Move to Camden, Pemberton, or one of the other Abbott Districts! Or, better yet... speak up!

The State Legislature has a "special session on property tax reform" which is investigating the whole school funding formula...

Some background...

Article VII, SECTION IV of the NJ State Constitution says...

1. The Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all the children in the State between the ages of five and eighteen years.

2. The fund for the support of free public schools, and all money, stock and other property, which may hereafter be appropriated for that purpose, or received into the treasury under the provisions of any law heretofore passed to augment the said fund, shall be securely invested, and remain a perpetual fund; and the income thereof, except so much as it may be judged expedient to apply to an increase of the capital, shall be annually appropriated to the support of free public schools, and for the equal benefit of all the people of the State; and it shall not be competent, except as hereinafter provided, for the Legislature to borrow, appropriate or use the said fund or any part thereof for any other purpose, under any pretense whatever.

On May 14, 1997 the NJ State Supreme Court issued a decision in Abbott v. Burke, stating that students in the poorest districts were unconstitutionally being denied a quality education.

The New Jersey Supreme Court in 1998 established a single criterion for determining whether a constitutionally guaranteed education is being provided to students in the poorest schools in the state. Do they master the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards with the same proficiency as students in more affluent districts?

Under the Abbott decisions, Abbott districts receive state aid that is calculated to provide them with the same per-pupil operating budget as would be found in New Jersey’s wealthiest school districts. Called “Abbott parity aid,” this funding is adjusted annually to reflect spending and enrollment in wealthy districts. In FY2006, it equals about $1 billion. Districts that demonstrate educational needs for its students that cannot be financed with state formula aid and parity may apply to the Commissioner of Education for “supplemental aid” (also called Discretionary Education Opportunity Aid). In FY2006, this aid equals about $500 million. The state is financially responsible for the creation of high-quality preschool programs for all three and four year-old children residing in Abbott districts. Currently, 70 percent of approximately 55,000 eligible children are enrolled in Abbott preschools, supported by $500 million in state funds. Finally, the state is financially responsible for providing adequate facilities with priority given to health and safety projects, creation of preschool facilities, and reduction in overcrowding. As of 2005, the state has committed $6 billion for school construction.
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