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 money—for 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.
A version of this article appeared in the January 07, 2009 edition of Education Week