Funding Formula, Increased K-12 Aid Top Actions in N.J.
Even in an austere budget year, the Garden State found the funds to give precollegiate education a boost, driven in part by Gov. Jon S. Corzine's high-profile campaign to revamp the way the state hands out money to its schools.
The $32.9 billion New Jersey state budget for fiscal 2009, signed by the governor July 1, was a decrease from the previous year's $33.5 billion. But the $7.8 billion it allots for pre-K-12 education is a 7 percent increase over fiscal 2008's amount.
The school money will be distributed according to a new formula the legislature approved last January. The formula sets baseline per-pupil funding amounts at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and adds weights extra moneyfor each student who is from a low-income family or is learning English. It also provides extra money for districts with high concentrations of students from low-income families, and it adjusts for regional cost differences.
State officials contended that the new formula addressed student need fairly across the state, making court-mandated extra funding to New Jersey's 31 poorest urban districts unnecessary. The state asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to end the extra urban funding. But the court instead ordered a trial on the question.
Part of the spending plan from Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, will support the start of a phased-in expansion to all low-income children of full-day preschool, taught by certified teachers.
The governor also in 2008 signed a law authorizing the state to borrow $3.9 billion for school construction and renovation. Another measure trimmed the benefits of public employees, such as teachers. Among other changes, it moved the retirement age to 62, from 60.
Vol. 28, Issue 16, Page 20