Trenton – The Garden State Coalition of Schools today issued a statement, warning that inadequate funding of the existing formula (SFRA) has placed increasingly heavy burdens on educators and local taxpayers.
A large number of school districts in the state do not receive the amount of funding required by the formula, which has been in place since 2008. The Coalition’s analysis of the state aid awarded to the state’s 599 school districts suggests that a pervasive level of underfunding has forced local taxpayers in at least 200 communities to increase taxes to compensate for chronic shortfalls in that aid. In other communities, educational opportunities have been compromised because local tax bases are not large enough to compensate for those same shortfalls.
“Communities have been forced to raise property taxes and/ or pare back educational programs and services because the state has repeatedly failed to address inequities in the formula that have arisen due to changing economic and demographic circumstances,” said Elisabeth Ginsburg, the Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. As a result, the taxpayers in far too many school districts are overtaxed and students are impoverished even more.”
“The school funding formula that is written into law has only been fully funded once in the last seven years.” said Ginsburg. “As a result local taxpayers in up to 200 communities are forced to pay close to $900 million in additional property taxes every year to make up the difference. Many more taxpayers have watched as educational opportunities and local property values have dwindled due to underfunding. This is about fundamental educational opportunity—the Garden State’s most precious resource—as well as property tax relief.”
Ginsburg said that a thoughtful re-examination of the formula, including “adjustment aid” or “hold harmless” aid, might pave the way to help underfunded districts and ensure that every community receives a fair share of available education funds. At the same time, she added, the state also needs to address the inequities caused by formula mechanisms that limit increased aid to districts where student populations are growing.
“We believe that every student deserves a quality education,” said Ginsburg, “and that every school district should receive its fair share under a formula that has been updated to meet New Jersey’s changing demographic and economic landscape.”
“Wise public policy adjusts to change,” she concluded, “and does not allow either quality or equity to fall by the wayside.”
The Garden State Coalition of Schools is a non-partisan, non-profit education advocacy organization that includes approximately 100 school districts that serve 300,000 students. Led by a highly motivated volunteer membership, GSCS advocates at the state level for quality, public education for New Jersey's children and serves the public by maintaining high-level information services. GSCS promotes educational practices, reasonable state regulations and state laws which further high quality education for all children. GSCS’ primary focus is on the interrelated issues of academic achievement education practices and school finance. GSCS supports efforts towards more equitable education opportunities for all school children.