Category Archives: Education Funding

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 10/9/10: Strengthening Education, Not Cutting It

>The President explains that even as we focus on creating jobs immediately, we must also ensure the economy is better for our children by investing in education – not cutting it by 20% as Congressional Republicans propose.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under affordable education, education cuts, Education Funding, Job creation, President Obama, Republicans

>NJPP Monday Minute 10/4/10: ‘Friending’ schools in Newark

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There are those in New Jersey, among them Governor Christie, who argue that the state spends too much money on too many things – including its public schools. But in order to have an honest, informed debate about that public investment, it’s important to compare the rhetoric with the actual numbers to see if they match up.

Sometimes they don’t.

Take for example state spending on Newark’s public schools. Compare the numbers discussed publicly in recent weeks and the actual numbers reported by the state. And then contrast those figures with the pledge of $100 million of Facebook stock to the Newark schools that was announced September 24.

A day before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his announcement, alongside Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Christie, on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the governor decried the deplorable and wasteful state of education in Newark, telling the Star-Ledger that New Jersey spends a whopping $24,000 per student in the Newark school system.

That figure is incorrect, according to data from the governor’s own administration. The New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Policy and Planning puts per student spending in Newark at $16,911 in the 2009-2010 school year budget (down from $19,756 the previous year.) The 2009-2010 state average for per student spending is $13,860, according to DOE.

The Education Law Center, a non-profit legal advocacy group that focuses on public school finance, says even that overstates the true cost per student, which varies widely by district. ELC argues a “weighted” calculation is a more accurate measure than simply dividing the total school budget by the number of students because it factors in the higher cost of educating students who might be impoverished or have special learning needs or limited English proficiency. The ELC’s weighted calculations from its March 2010 analysis, which is based on state figures, puts spending per student in Newark at $10,517 for 2009-2010.

Both the Department of Education’s and the Education Law Center’s figures are substantially lower than the figure cited by Governor Christie. The Governor’s Office of Communications referred a question for clarification to the DOE’s Office of Communications. A DOE spokesman said Newark’s per student cost of $23,600 – rounded up to $24,000 by the governor – covers all expenses in Newark, including transportation and “other” costs. The spokesman did not respond to a follow-up inquiry about what “other costs” are included in that more expansive calculation.

Per student spending is one thing, but how much does New Jersey spend in total on Newark’s public schools?

“For context, we spend $900 million plus or minus in the City of Newark school system right now in state funds,” Governor Christie told reporters at a news conference in Newark the day after the Oprah announcement.

The actual figure is $815 million — $85 million less than the figure given by the governor, according to state Department of Education documents. The Education Law Center also cites the $815 million total as the state’s contribution to Newark.

To give the governor his due, he did say $900 million “plus or minus,” but rounding up from $815 million amounts to almost all of Zuckerberg’s donation. It’s unlikely the governor would want to equate the Facebook CEO’s gift with a rounding error. A Department of Education spokesman did not respond to inquiries about the difference.

The state has cut total state aid to all school districts by $1.2 billion since January (which amounts to 10 percent of the yearly total in a state that already ranks near the bottom in state spending on schools). In Newark, to date, the Christie administration has cut $56.3 million in public school aid — $13.7 million in mid-year FY2010 cuts and $42.6 million in FY2011, according to both DOE and ELC.

That lost aid makes Zuckerberg’s $100 million matching grant very important to Newark. Zuckerberg’s grant even dwarfs the $23.7 million that Newark received from the federal legislation signed by President Obama in August to help school districts rehire laid off teachers.

While Zuckerberg’s largesse might be welcome, it raises complicated issues.

The money is focused entirely on one city, to the exclusion of neighboring Irvington or other urban cities like Camden or Trenton. That raises questions of fairness and favoritism in a public school system established on the ideal of equal education for all students.

It is also an unprecedented injection of corporate money into a public school system, which raises questions of governance and democracy. Decisions in the public schools are supposed to be driven by the local voters through the school board and state Department of Education – not 26-year-old fledgling billionaires. In the words of ELC founder and Rutgers Law School Professor Paul Tractenberg to the Star-Ledger’s Bob Braun, “This is a very dangerous moment for public education. Instead of facing up to our responsibilities to support the schools, we are tearing them apart. We are destroying the very values that created the public school system.”

The least we could do, then, is get the numbers right.

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Filed under Cory Booker, Education Funding, Facebook, Gov. Chris Christie, Jeff Zuckerbg, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Newark NJ, public schools

I will make up my own mind about the budget.


I was forwarded the following letter last night by someone who wished not to be identified. The person took acception to Governor Christie’s recent statement that urged voters to turn down their local school budget if teachers in their towns refused to take a wage freeze .

I agree with the letter writer and the comments that this person added at the bottom of it from a few who responded to the story that was posted on NJ.com about the governor’s comments.

I think the governor’s comments were both reckless and callous. If voters turn down school budgets across the state next week it will result in more teachers being let go and sports programs and after school activities being cut or eliminated, which would be a real shame due to the fact that many students need of those types of programs for possible scholarships opportunities and to bulk up their college transcripts in order to get into their preferred college of choice.
Here’s the letter:

Imagine telling your grown kids, heck, your parents how to vote. I don’t know about you but it would go over like a lead balloon in many New Jersey households. I believe one of the basic tenets of the constitution is the right to make a free and unfettered choice on how to vote on Election Day. Chris Christie must have missed that day in civics class.

I would never have believed this headline if I had not read it for myself.

“Gov. Chris Christie urges voters to reject school districts’ budgets without wage freezes for teachers” NJ.com

First of all, you have to wonder what the real reason is behind this declaration. Is it that Christie is nervous about the tax increases that have accompanied those proposed budgets? The ones that were caused by “The self-proclaimed “conservative” Republican is cutting suburban property tax relief by amounts unimaginable even under the liberal Democrat he defeated” to quote Paul Mulshine.

Those tax increases scare him and that does not even take into account what will happen the following school year when districts have no tax relief to offer their residents. He may be at war with the NJEA but his GOP legislators are the ones who have to hang their hats and their necks on the line for this budget, especially next year when they run for election. From what I hear the legislative kitchen is getting pretty hot these days.

Then you have to wonder why the Governor doesn’t lead by example. Let him take a pay cut and contribute 1.5% of his salary to his health insurance. Well he hasn’t even offered. Neither have all those legislators in Trenton who should know better.

They can’t even get the stories straight in Trenton, because today at a Senate budget hearing , Department of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler said he would not recommend voters reject those budgets when they go to the polls on April 20. Schools are dealing with a nearly $820 million cut in funding while facing increasing salary and benefits costs. He tried to reinterpret what the Governor said to make it sound more palatable. I’m sorry, I like many other voters choked on the Governor’s very clear words.
If you check out the latest Monmouth University/Gannett poll it makes it very clear.
The governor is more likely to be blamed by registered voters for impending teacher layoffs statewide than either the teachers unions or local school boards, according to the results of a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll.
Fully 44 percent cite Christie as the party responsible for school districts reducing work forces in order to balance budgets for the next school year, while 28 percent blame the unions and 17 percent the school boards, according to poll results.

“It’s Goliath versus Goliath,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. “But the governor’s bluster in taking on the teachers union has backfired.”
It goes on to say,
When asked specifically about the governor’s proposed cuts in state aid to towns and school districts, more than half (52%) feel those cuts are unfair in comparison to cuts made in other areas of the budget. Only 28% say these cuts in local aid are fair.

“The local aid reduction, particularly to schools, was always going to be the flashpoint for criticism of the plan, and the governor’s clash with the NJEA only increased the heat. If part of his strategy was to win over public opinion, it hasn’t been an overwhelming success,” said Murray.
I don’t even need a poll to tell me that. I found some particularly enlightening words on Bluejersey.com.
I think it’s fair to say the students are being held hostage in the disputes between the Governor, the school boards, and the unions. In that complex multi-sided hostage standoff, Christie just asked the bystanders to shoot the hostages. We already have voters who routinely reject school budgets because they resent paying taxes for the public school system that has been benefiting our society for generations. To recklessly ask them to reject budgets wholesale is in my opinion a shocking tactic, especially when rejecting a budget will not release school districts from the contract their leadership willingly signed. Rejecting the budget won’t hurt most teachers directly.

I say let people judge each budget on its own merits. Let’s not let anyone dictate to us how we should vote. In Middletown, the budget has been cut by a staggering amount ($9,608,000) and is already putting 124 district personnel on the street in July. Those people and many others will be joining the ranks of the unemployed who will require unemployment benefits from our deleted funds. They may find more residents going into foreclosure and selling homes, dampening a poor housing market.
The one thing I can promise is that if budget are voted down your kids will be the ones that are hurt.
Just listen to some fellow residents posting on NJ.com
Posted by lakeline
April 12, 2010, 3:14PM
I’m not a teacher, but I have two kids in school and I wish the Governor would stop hurting their education. Since he has failed to sway the Teacher’s Union himself, he’s pushing us to do it for him. Every failed budget reduces a kids education in multiple ways. Sure, negotiate with your teachers for reasonable compromises, but Vote Yes for your budget. We don’t all have the Governor’s money to send our kids to Private School

Posted by netspider
April 12, 2010, 2:44PM
Gov. Christie you have crossed the line with this statement. Shame on You. How can you ethically make a comment on how anyone should vote.

Posted by kadtom
April 12, 2010, 2:31PM
Are you kidding Me? The governor is now trying to dictate what the public people should do?? I can’t believe I voted for a dictator who’s children don’t even attend public schools? I moved to Chatham for the good schools. Good schools and location are why my property values are highly appraised. If I want to vote yes I will! Don’t dictate to the people who elected you governor! You lost my vote, that’s for sure.

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Filed under Blue Jersey, budget cuts, Education Funding, Gov. Chris Christie, layoffs, NJ.com, NJEA, Teachers

Christie Cuts State Aid To Middletown’s Schools By $7.2 Million, What does It Mean?


Wednesday afternoon School Districts all over the state learned how much state aid they could expect from Trenton this year, some districts had all state aid withheld while other had little to no aid cut from their budgets.

In Middletown’s case more than $7.2 million or roughly 34% has been cut from state aid, which is on top of the loss of over $2.8 million in surplus funds that Gov. Christie instructed the school system to use earlier this month to make up for the difference in aid that would not be coming to finish out the school year.

At last nights Board of Education meeting, the Board was suppose to unveil its proposed budget for the upcoming school year but could not due to the latest announcement.

Earlier this month, the Board already announced the layoff of 36 teachers, 18 paraprofessionals,2 administrators, 4 secretaries and 4 facilities staffers as a result of the aid cut, now what is the school district suppose to due about this latest announced aid cut that will amount to an $11 million hole in it’s budget, how many more staff members will Middletown lose as a result? I would think doubling the amount of staff cuts would be the starting point.
How many teachers, administrators and support staff will have to be let go? Will a school somewhere in the district have to be closed? If so, which one and what will that do to class sizes throughout the district. Class size averages about 22 kids per class right now, will class size increase to 35 or more per classroom?
How about after school programs and extra-curricular activities? Will sports programs be cut, what will Middletown do without football, soccer, wrestling, field hockey or other sports to keep the community and kids active, involved and engaged in school spirit, self-worth and education?
Gov. Christie doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about how these cuts in aid will effect the education of Middletown students or students in other school districts receive. It seems that all he is concerned about is breaking the back of the NJEA and its members, with little regard for the collateral damage that he will cause in the process.
Christie has told school districts across the state that there should be no need to cut programs or teachers to balance their budgets, he has stated to them that in essence, all a school district needs to do is break existing teacher contracts by freeze pending contractual teacher salary increase and imposing higher health care co-pays on the NJEA members. Which makes a lot of sense since Christie himself realized that he couldn’t do the same thing to state workers in order to balance the State’s budget.
Other than breaking the backs of the public unions in this state, which I’ll admit need to be overhauled in someway, Christie is going after the public education system in order to push his plans for Charter School vouchers and school choice.
Both he and his Education Secretary Bret Schundler, are advocates for Charter Schools even though it has been shown that charter schools often have worse track records at teaching our kids than public schools have.
Charter schools are for profit operations that do not always make the right decisions for children based on education standards, they make decisions that effect their bottom line and in so doing the quality of education suffers. Statistics show that for each charter school that has some success 2 or more fail and go out of business.
Is that what New Jerseyians really want for their kids education, a weakened public education system that will drive children to a possibly inferior Charter School? I don’t think so, residents for the most part believe in the public school system and feel that it is an important institution that needs to be maintained.
It may not be perfect but neither are most Charter Schools that are more interested in their bottom line than the overall quality of their education.
This latest announcement of cuts in State aid to education will have devastating effects on Middletown and other municipalities through out Monmouth County and the State.

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Filed under charter schools, Education Funding, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education, Monmouth County, school budgets, School cuts

Governor Corzine: "He Gets It"

New Jerseyans speak about how Governor Jon Corzine’s leadership has made New Jersey one of the best states in the nation on educating our children.

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Filed under children, Education Funding, Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersey, Teachers