Quote of the DayMay 12, 2009
N.J. Cheats Charters?May 14, 2009
Assemblyman Gary Chiusano (Republican 24th District) is writing a series of editorials in the new New Jersey Newsroom, a web-based newspaper started by about 40 of the laid-off journalists from the Star-Ledger. The first entry in Chiusano’s series, “The ABC’s of Why Your Property Taxes are so High,” amounts to a screed against Abbott districts and the jurists who created them. Here’s a sampling:
We pay more and more in property taxes because the Court – with the connivance of Abbott bureaucrats and activists – have continued to tweak the Abbott decisions to take more state funding away from the middle class school children. The number of suburban districts that receive essentially no classroom aid has gone up from 140 to 260. To add insult to injury, just last year many members of our state legislature who are supporters of the Abbott Districts even had the impudence to improperly rely upon the Court’s Abbott decisions to justify their approval bonding for another $3.9 BILLION for school construction in these districts without even allowing you a vote.
Let’s toss Assemblyman Chiusano a valium and concede that he makes a few valid points. Our Abbott districts are overfunded and do suffer from a lack of accountability. Chiusano writes, “Handed down by an unelected and unaccountable judiciary, these decisions made per-pupil spending the criteria by which education would be judged in New Jersey. Results no longer mattered – spending did.” That’s true. The State Supreme Court did say that educational equity can be measured by money spent, and we now know that it’s not that simple.
The Assemblyman then points to other states that use a per-pupil cost for a “basic education” and says we should do the same. Actually, that exactly what the D.O.E. is trying to do. They call it an “adequacy formula,” and penalize districts who spend more than that. The problem is that the data shows that educating poor kids costs more than educating wealthier kids. While it’s appealing to put a dollar figure on a “basic education,” that number can shift for a variety of reasons, including poverty and disability.
Curiously, Chiusano ignores the current court battle over Corzine’s Spending Formula Reform Act, which would overturn the Abbott designations and channel money directly to needy children. While there’s plenty of reason to distrust both the formula and the D.O.E.’s ability to implement it, the SFRA does address many of Chiusano’s concerns.
He’d be a bit more credible and maybe even a little less strident if he looked at another reason why we spend so much on education in New Jersey: our inefficient and expensive reliance on over 600 school districts to educate our children. That’s a situation worth a bit of Chiusano’s bile.