From WHYY Newsworks:
The world is full of mysteries and one of them is the way that New Jersey funds charter schools. It should be straight math, right? Not so much. Charter schools, sadly, exist within a maelstrom of political posturing from all sides. Chief among those hazards are misconceptions about funding. So let’s demystify.
The history of school funding in N.J. is informed by a search for equity: all children, regardless of economic circumstance, are entitled to equally effective educational services. But, once upon a time (okay, until 1976) our school districts relied almost solely from revenue derived from local property tax levies, which meant that wealthier communities spent far more per student than poor communities. This reliance on local community wealth created unethical inequities within our public education system. A series of State Supreme Court cases, known as the Abbott rulings, tried to correct the vast funding inequities among socio-economically diverse districts by ordering that the state compensate tax-poor communities. Hence, N.J.’s state income tax, the great equalizer.
Read the rest here.
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At $960 in state aid per student, Princeton is a relatively well-aided district. Compared to many suburbs in Bergen, West Essex, East Morris, and Union counties, Princeton's 84% local contribution is low.
Compare Princeton to these suburbs (all of which are less wealthy than Princeton):
West Orange: 92% locally funded
Livingston: 96% locally funded
South Orange-Maplewood: 93% locally funded
Westfield: 94% locally funded
I realize that Princeton was just an example in a piece about charter schools, but if you want to illustrate the immense variation in local funding share Princeton was not a good example at all.
It's not correct that Adjustment Aid is “available to all districts.” Only 189 NJ districts, less than one-third, of NJ's districts get Adjustment Aid and most NJ districts that don't get Adjustment Aid are in not likely to get Adjustment Aid because they already get nowhere near 100% of what SFRA recommends.
The reason most NJ districts aren't likely to get Adjustment Aid is that for a district that now only gets 10-80% of its SFRA recommendation (which is the range in the suburbs) to get Adjustment Aid it would have to undergo a large amount of gentrification or loss of student population in order for its aid amount to be greater than its SFRA target. If a district already gets a high share of its SFRA recommendation the gentrification or loss of student population that would trigger Adjustment Aid is much smaller.
Also, if Adjustment Aid were transferred to charter schools it would either have no effect or a small effect for most charters.
The reason for this is that most of NJ's charter schools are in urban districts, but only a few urban districts get any Adjustment Aid. For most of those that do get Adjustment Aid it's a small share of their overall aid packages. Paterson, Plainfield, and Elizabeth get $0 in Adjustment Aid. Newark only gets $13 million out of $715 million. Trenton gets $21 million out of $228 million. Camden gets $46 million
in Adjustment Aid, but even that's only 16% of Camden's overall $280 aid package.
The only place in NJ where a transfer of Adjustment Aid would have a large difference is in Hudson County. $114 million – a quarter of Jersey City's $418 million in in aid – is Adjustment Aid. About half of Hoboken's $10 million is Adjustment Aid.
Also, there's the question of whether or not Adjustment Aid should exist in the first place. When some districts gets as little as 10% of their SFRA aid how is it fair to support an aid stream that allows other districts to get over 100% of their SFRA aid?
Ok, I have to post again about Princeton being a very poor example of the point you are trying to make. I am posting about this because I live in an Essex county district that is not even in the same ballpark as Princeton in terms of wealth and yet has a much higher local contribution. Since it's so little know how unfair NJ's aid distribution is I have to post again on this topic.
Princeton's per pupil spending is $18,688, which is very high for a non-Abbott, so if Princeton is locally paying for 84% of its school system it's a political choice of Princeton residents. If Princeton felt like spending $15,000 per student (like most suburbs spend), its local share of education funding would be much lower than 84%.
So I made a mistake when I compared Princeton to West Orange ($16,188 per pupil), Livingston ($14,385 per pupil), South Orange-Maplewood ($14,565 per pupil), and Westfield ($13,087 per pupil) since those towns spend nowhere near the amount Princeton spends. Those are not apples to apples comparisons.
The point is that Princeton, despite enormous property and income wealth, is a well-aided district. If you want to find an example of how NJ has lower aid for certain districts than for others it would be better to use an example from the Northeastern portion of NJ.
So the point is that the income tax is NOT the great equalizer. There are tremendous disparities in aid within NJ.
There are immense disparities in aid and it is all to easy to find examples of wealthier towns getting more state aid than poorer towns.