Gap between Christie’s favorites, victims grows wider

NJEA’s elected officers, President Wendell Steinhauer, Vice President Marie Blistan and Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller released this statement today, condemning the governor’s divisive and regressive school funding practices and rejecting his call to create a new funding formula rather than responsibly fund the existing SFRA formula:

“Chris Christie’s latest school funding proposal in the budget he just outlined is a perfect example of what happens when politicians are allowed to play favorites in school funding instead of following our fair, established and constitutionally-sound funding formula.

“That problem is most obvious when it comes to his preferential treatment for charter schools. All other New Jersey public schools are essentially flat funded again in his proposed budget. As a result of that, districts with enrollment growth will have lower per-pupil funding in the coming year. That’s even true in districts that were already badly underfunded because of his seven previous budgets. For most districts, Christie’s budget digs an existing hole even deeper.

“However, his budget once again contains special additional money, outside the formula, to ensure that charter schools with rising enrollment will have their per-pupil funding protected. Even charters located in districts where per pupil funding is plummeting will have their funding protected. Every year he does that, the gap between his favorites and his victims grows wider. Governor Christie’s divisive tactic to pit charters against districts and communities against each other as they struggle to deal with his years of underfunding is consistent with the lowest elements of our current political discourse.

“That’s Chris Christie’s approach to school funding, and it’s a disaster.

“While hundreds of districts desperately need additional funding in this budget, only charter schools are going to get it. That’s a terrible way to distribute school funding. That additional money should go toward increasing the state’s overall funding of the formula, which would benefit every district that is currently underfunded and will not see an increase again this year. That’s the only way to close the gaps he has created and get every district back on track for full, adequate funding.

“New Jersey doesn’t need a new formula, no matter what Christie says or what artificial timelines he tries to impose. We need politicians to stop playing favorites in every budget cycle and to stop pitting students against each other for inadequate resources. We need leaders who recognize their responsibility to all children. We need leaders who will make the necessary investment in education year after year to live up to that responsibility.

“NJEA has consistently supported the proposal by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to gather the appropriate stakeholders to develop a plan to transition back to the current funding formula. In addition, we have called for that group to study the funding mechanism for charter schools, as the current mechanism is causing drastic program cuts in the districts from which charters draw their students.

“We call on legislators to reject Chris Christie’s divisive and regressive approach to school funding, and to begin the hard work of transitioning back to our existing formula so that all children, and not just a fortunate few, have the resources they need and deserve.”

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