>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.
Category Archives: Education Funding
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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 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.
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
Site for Monmouth Poll: http://www.monmouth.edu/polling/admin/polls/MUP33_1.pdf
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.
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.