With a $135 million increase in K-12 formula aid, an increase of 1.8 percent, and the proposed modifications to the SFRA funding formula, 90 percent of districts will receive additional state aid on a per pupil basis this year. On average, state aid is increasing 2.1 percent or $121 per pupil across the state. Because these measures follow the principle that districts should be funded on the actual number of students they serve, 35 of the 97 districts that will receive less state aid will do so because of an enrollment decrease rather than a decrease in per-pupil aid.
As the following demonstrates, Abbotts receive almost three times the state average in state aid per pupil. Overall, the former Abbott districts are receiving 0.55 percent less state aid than last year, yet still remain funded at a significantly higher level than non-Abbott districts and the statewide school district average. The overwhelming amount of total per pupil education spending in the former Abbott districts has, and will continue in Fiscal Year 2013, to come from direct state support. Even with formula revisions, state aid will comprise 3 of every 4 dollars spent on education per pupil in the former Abbott districts.
Average Spending Per Pupil in New Jersey: Statewide Average & All Former Abbott Districts:
State Average: $17,836,
Former Abbotts: $20,859
Average State Aid Per Pupil In the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget:
State Average: $5,809,
Former Abbotts: $15,415
Christie said the past 40 years have demonstrated that just spending more money alone will not close the achievement gap, and that it matters not only “how much” money is spent but “how well” it is spent. The governor said that despite funding levels that consistently rate among the highest in the nation on a per pupil basis, New Jersey continues to have one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. He said funding alone will not meet New Jersey's obligation to give a great education to every child. Changing the way money is spent is by far the most important means of actually changing the behavior of schools and the school systems.
New Jersey has the second highest achievement gap in 8th grade reading according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, and the sixth highest achievement gap in 8th grade math. Since 2005, the gaps for economically disadvantaged, African American, and Hispanic students have widened in Language arts literacy on the NJ ASK.
“We have closed the spending gap between Abbotts and non-Abbotts in New Jersey since 1972, but our disadvantaged children are still performing at significantly lower levels than their peers,” DOE Commissioner Chris Cerf said. “Closing that gap was the explicit goal of the courts and legislature over the past 40 years, but money alone has not gotten us there. While money certainly matters, there is no evidence that money alone will close the achievement gap. Over the last 40 years, we’ve talked a lot about equalizing funding, but we need to change the conversation to focus on whether students are learning the same everywhere, rather than simply whether we are spending the same everywhere.”