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Christie: $2.85M hike in education aid for Bergen

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

THE TOWN-BY-TOWN BREAKOUT: Nearly $208 million in aid for Bergen County school districts built into Gov. Christie’s proposed 2014 fiscal year budget — and announced this afternoon — represent the largest appropriation of K-12 education dollars in the state’s history, his office said today.

The biggest boost, by far, is the $500,000 earmarked for Elmwood Park — a 20 percent boost that would increase state aid for education to the district to $3 million from $2.5 million (SEE FULL CHART, BY DISTRICT, BELOW).

Other big increases include $732,370 to Garfield (to $55.8 million from $55 million); $291,458 to Englewood, which nudges its state aid total for fiscal 2014 to $9.7 million from $9.4 million; and $268,344 to Cliffside Park (to $3.55 million from $3.28 million).

Bergenfield would get $163,127 more, increasing its current $10.47 million figure to $10.6 million.

At the same time, a full 40 districts are slated for nothing more, under Christie’s proposed spending plan. Those not slated for hikes include the city of Hackensack, which this year had a $12.7 million state aid total topped by Lodi and Garfield.

And although it’s technically an increase, Alpine, Bergen County Vocational, Cresskill, Demarest, Dumont, Emerson, Little Ferry, North Arlington, Oakland, Paramus, Saddle Brook, Upper Saddle River and Wyckoff would split an additional $13 boost — as in: A dollar each.

Pascack Valley Regional would get $2 more.

“Throughout my time in office I have continuously argued that in order to grow New Jersey’s economy we must invest in education,” the governor said, “and my proposed budget is a reflection of my commitment to our educational system and communities in Bergen County and across the state.”

The $2,853,507 increase to Bergen County districts is part of what the Christie called “a bold budget that continues to prioritize education and funds schools at the highest levels in New Jersey’s history.”

However, he also urged that education officials and others “work towards solutions that make every dollar we invest count.”

Whether the final fiscal 2014 budget for New Jersey plays out that way depends upon the state Legislature and what lawmakers do with Christie’s blueprint — which contains nearly $9 billion in state aid. That’s an increase of $97.3 million over 2013 — the third year in a row it’s been boosted.

On average, districts across the state would receive an increase of $75 per pupil, if the plan is approved, Christie said.

All districts would receive an increase in K-12 formula aid or maintain flat funding from the previous school year, he said.

“New Jersey ranks in the top three in the country with its spending on public education and this year’s proposed budget continues that trend,” said Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. “But it takes more than money to provide an effective education and we will continue to focus on ways to support our educators, districts and schools in order to ensure all of our students receive a high-quality education that prepares them for the expectations of college and careers in the 21st century.”

In addition to the increases in aid, Christie’s Administration said the proposed budget also includes several new aid categories designed to provide additional funds to districts and students:

· The Education Innovation Fund: As part of Governor Christie’s continued commitment to creating high quality school options for all students, the budget provides $5 million for an Education Innovation Fund to incent innovation and reward success. The Fund will be used in two ways. First, a portion will be used to provide financial awards to schools and districts that have addressed achievement challenges. For example, awards might be given to the elementary school that achieved the biggest one year increase in third grade literacy for disadvantaged students, the district with the largest improvement in its attendance rate, or the high school with the biggest jump in its graduation rate.

(The remaining portion of the fund would provide resources districts and schools that develop innovative solutions to address defined problem areas, such as low graduation rates, poor-performing special education students, or low scores in fourth grade mathematics. The Department would fund the best reforms and monitor their implementation and impact, ultimately identifying and bringing the most efficacious to scale statewide.)

· Under-Adequacy Aid: The Governor’s budget includes a new category of aid to benefit districts that are currently 10% or more below their adequacy budget. Approximately $16.8m will be distributed to 131 districts across the state with districts receiving an average of approximately $128,000 each. Awards are capped at $500,000 for each eligible district.

· Supplemental Enrollment Growth Aid (SEGA): First signed into law last summer, the Governor’s proposed budget continues to provide additional aid to districts that experienced enrollment growth greater than 13% from October 2008 to October 2011. A total of $4.141 million will be provided to the 13 districts that received SEGA funding in Fiscal Year 2014.

· New Geographic Cost Adjustment (GCA): The Geographic Cost Adjustment is an index that is applied to each district’s adequacy budget in order to account for cost differences across the state. The GCA was revised using new data from the U.S. Census Bureau and made minor modifications to reduce variations by county.

· Funding For Opportunity Scholarship Grants: Acting on his belief that every New Jersey child deserves a high quality education regardless of zip code, Governor Christie’s proposed budget includes $2 million for scholarship grants to allow children in chronically failing schools to attend alternate educational placements. This pilot program will fill the gap and create opportunities for children with no other options.

· School Choice Aid: The Governor’s proposed budget continues to provide aid to districts that have been accepted into the Inter-district Choice Program. For the 2013-14 school year, 105 school districts will participate in the program, up from 70 during the 2012-13 school year. In total, $49 million is proposed in Fiscal Year 2014, an increase of $16 million from Fiscal Year 2013.

The Bergen County chart supplied by Christie’s office:

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