Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday unveiled his $32.15 billion budget for fiscal year 2013. It’s a spending plan that includes $8.87 billion in total state aid for public education, an increase over the current year’s levels.
District by district state aid figures must be made available within two days of the governor’s annual budget address, although the amounts are typically announced the day after the budget message. NJSBA will analyze the state aid figures after they are released.
“As school districts develop their own budgets for 2012-2013, they carefully balance the educational needs of children with their communities’ financial resources. State aid to education plays an important and positive role by helping school districts provide critical educational programs, while also serving as a form of property tax relief,” said Marie S. Bilik, NJSBA’s executive director. “NJSBA appreciates Gov. Christie’s proposed school funding increase. Before taking a final position, however, we will have to see the details of aid distribution per district and learn more about the governor’s proposed changes to school funding.”
Education Funding Not Restored Bilik added, “Since 2008, the economic downturn has posed enormous challenges. As a result of the financial crisis, New Jersey school districts suffered an $820 million reduction in funding in 2010-2011. The current year’s budget began restoring those cuts by increasing state aid to the 556 non-Abbott districts by $369 million. (It also provided an additional $447 million in court-order aid increases to the 31 Abbott districts.)
“The proposed school aid increase for 2012-2013 would continue – but, on a statewide basis, would not complete – the restoration of funding to the non-Abbott districts,” Bilik said. “During the Legislature’s budget deliberation process, NJSBA will advocate strongly for adequate state funding for all local school districts.”
Call for Reform Gov. Christie used the budget address to the Legislature to renew his call for education reform.
“It is well-known to you that I believe we have work to do to improve our K-12 education system in particular. We have great outcomes in some districts. But we have terrible performance in others. That is not right, it is not fair and it is not moral,” he said.
“So I ask you again to pass this year the education reforms I put before you in my State of the State address,” he said. “We need to reform tenure. We need to pay the best teachers more. We need to expand charter schools in our failing school districts. And we need to give choice and hope to those students and parents now trapped in failing school districts by passing the Opportunity Scholarship Act.”
Highlights of the budget proposal include:
- The amount of formula aid to schools would increase by nearly $135 million, to $7.79 billion in fiscal 2013.
- Key components of the forumula aid increase are $46.4 million for special education and $14.6 million for pre-school education.
- School choice aid, which would cover the local share of costs for students in interdistrict choice programs, would increase $14.2 million, to $36.5 million.
- The budget proposal complies with a requirement for the state to adequately fund pension payments. Under the budget plan, the state’s contribution to the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund pension system would increase from $325.4 million in fiscal 2012 to $664.4 million in fiscal 2013.
- Construction debt service would be set at $489.9 million for fiscal 2013. In fiscal 2012, it was funded with $13.2 million, plus another $367.6 million carried over from the previous year’s budget.
The budget package will be reviewed by the Legislature, which will need to approve it before the June 30 end of the fiscal year.