Teaching as a Serial CareerJune 4, 2009
Davy BlooperJune 5, 2009
Charles Barone, Director of Federal Policy at Democrats for Education Reform and blogger at Swift & Change Able (put it on your reading list), has a cogent analysis of New Jersey’s many educational woes, including the Education Law Center’s letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. dated this past Tuesday, June 2nd, which “request(s) that the USDOE reject New Jersey’s amended application for initial funding under the State Fiscal Restabilization Fund Program.”
What’s at stake? Oh, only about $7 billion. Chump change.
The N.J. Department of Education had originally filed the required application for our piece of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Program on May 21st (here), and then filed the amended application on May 28th (here). According to the cover letter to the amended application, signed by Janellen Duffy, Director of Policy for Governor Corzine, James Butler of the US DOE had asked the NJ DOE during a phone call to “resubmit information in the “State Uses of Education Stabilization Fund,” which Duffy did forthwith.
So, what’s the Education Law Center’s gripe? According to their June 2nd letter, signed by Executive Director David Sciarra, the NJ DOE’s amended application
Proposes to allocate initial stabilization funds without funding increases and “equity and adequacy adjustments in the State’s primary K-12 school funding formula and , therefore, is contrary to the express provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Further, New Jersey proposes to utilize almost 80% of the State’’ entire allocation of stabilization funds in FY 2010 and provides no assurance that stabilization funds will be available to restore formula funding and allow formula increases in 2011, as required under ARRA.
In other words, according to the ELC, N.J.’s application violates the ARRA because the stimulus money is supposed to be used to implement “existing State formula increases.” What’s our State formula? The newly-blessed School Funding Reform Act, of course, And if SFRA was fully funded that would require expenditures during FY 2010 of $6.1 billion. But NJ is only proposing to provide $5.6 billion: thus, concludes Sciarra, “it is clear that the State is proposing not to provide the state aid necessary to fund the increases required by SFRA in FY 2010.” Specifically, the State is choosing to “not fund appropriately $303 million, including $293 million in state “equalization aid,” which is required by ARRA.
Secondly, the stimulus funds are supposed to be divided up over FY 2010 and FY 2011. Yet, ELC claims that the DOE’s amended application proposes to use almost 80% of the stabilization funds in the first year, leaving only $239.5 million left in the second year: “the State’s application provides no assurance, or any other information, on how New Jersey will meet the funding requirements of ARRA in FY 2011.”
These are pretty serious allegations. According to the ELC, New Jersey has no intention of fully funding its own new SFRA, and is using up much of two years of stimulus money in the first year, leaving us in the significantly short in FY 2011. Will Education Secretary Arne Duncan listen to reason? Conveniently, he’s visiting a charter school in Newark today, the North Star Middle School Academy, and ELC fans and NJ DOE critics will be trying hard to read body language. But the Star-Ledger reports today that
Officials at the state and federal departments of education were dismissive of the law center’s claim, and Duncan will be joined in Newark by state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy and top federal lawmakers from New Jersey, another sign he will approve the application.
SFRA is creating a set of strange and angry bedfellows: Abbott district advocates, whose funds were cut under the new funding formula; charter school advocates, who resent that charters receive only 74% of the per pupil money they’re supposed to get; preschool advocates, who were promised an expansion of public preschools beyond Abbott districts with SFRA and will get a big fat nothing this year. Much fodder for Christie, though we’ve yet to hear what he’d do differently.