The Star-Ledger published an editorial by Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen, Passaic) calling on Democrats to pass Governor Christie’s landmark school funding reform, the “Fairness Formula,” to provide property tax relief and give all students an equal chance at success.
Gov. Chris Christie’s landmark school funding reform, the “Fairness Formula,” would address New Jersey’s property tax crisis by fundamentally changing the way the state spends your money.
The Christie plan is called the Fairness Formula because it provides every student in the state with the same level of funding for their education. It treats every child equally, because all of our students deserve an equal chance at success in our schools.
Under the plan, existing state education funding would be divided equally among students. Every school district would receive an identical $6,599 per student in state aid.
The Fairness Formula would provide 75 percent of school districts with more funding than they currently receive, and deliver homeowners in long-underfunded districts with real, substantive property tax relief.
Here’s a sampling of the property tax savings that homeowners in some towns could expect under the simple, transparent Fairness Formula: $647 in West Deptford, $1,823 in Wood-Ridge, $1,573 in Teaneck, $1,424 in Dumont, and $1,460 in Paramus.
That is without spending any more than we do today.
I support the Christie plan, but for it to pass, it will also need the support of Democrats in the Legislature who have repeatedly promised, and failed, to lower property taxes.
Some are hiding behind Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s proposal to create a commission to study school funding reform. Creating and deferring to a panel of bureaucrats is not a sign of leadership, nor does it solve the problem.
Considering that the Sweeney has already promised that his commission would offer a way to fully fund the current flawed formula at an extra $1.9 billion annually, New Jersey residents would actually see their total tax burden go up, not down.
The only question is how much the Sweeney commission will propose raising state income or sales taxes to cover those billions of new spending, or which programs it will recommend cutting as an offset from the state budget.
Most people would agree that raising taxes to lower taxes isn’t a good deal, nor is putting an unelected commission in charge of another complex school funding formula that will almost surely be directed by political motivations rather than fairness.
The only school funding solution that takes politics out of the equation is the Fairness Formula, which inherently treats all children equally.
For those who question the impact that aid reductions would have on the long-overfunded Abbott districts, New Jersey’s successful charter schools show just how much is possible when we look beyond funding as the only pathway to educational success.
Take Newark, for example, where the city’s regular public schools graduate just 69 percent of students despite spending more than $22,000 per child. Compare that to the North Star Academy charter school, also in Newark, which graduates an amazing 87 percent of students while spending only $13,000 per child.
In Camden, the LEAP Academy Charter School spends $16,000 per pupil to achieve an incredible 98 percent graduation rate, while the city’s public schools spend $25,000 per student to graduate just 63 percent.
The same holds true across New Jersey, where successful charter schools in Asbury Park and elsewhere prove that it’s possible to provide a quality education for every child in every neighborhood, for less than we are currently paying for failure.
That’s why 1,300 children in Paterson are on a waiting list for a chance at one of the 99 spots in the city’s charter school lottery. That’s why 1,000 of the city’s parents crowded into a school gymnasium hoping they would beat the odds.
What does it say that some kids in New Jersey literally have to win the lottery for a chance at a decent education? It doesn’t have to be that way.
If the Democrats in the Legislature truly care about children being left in failing school districts, they would support giving all of those parents a choice of where their children go to school.
This conversation about school funding and education reform is one that the people of New Jersey must have, and I’m glad that Gov. Christie finally has us talking about putting an end to expensive failure through his proposed Fairness Formula.
If you agree that it’s time for a change, call your legislator and tell them to support the Fairness Formula today.