State aid to school districts will remain essentially flat in the coming year, ticking up just slightly to a total of $9.016 billion under the proposed 2015-2016 budget released this week by Gov. Chris Christie. The governor also emphasized the need for pension reform.
Formula aid, preschool education aid, PARCC readiness aid, extraordinary special education aid, and most other categories of aid are slightly increased or remain at the same funding level as the current year.
In state education spending, only school choice aid, which rose 6 percent, to $52.5 million, and debt service aid, which increased nearly 10 percent, to $63.4 million, saw significant increases. In his budget address, Christie spoke about plans to fund “Opportunity Scholarships, to give students in failing school districts a choice.”
Nonpublic school aid, charter school aid, and school building aid all saw small decreases.
Total state spending on K-12 education, which includes contributions to the Teacher’s Pension and Annuity Fund, post-retirement medical benefits, and school construction debt service, will rise by $811 million under the Christie budget, from $11.9 billion to $12.7 billion.
The governor touted his “record investments in aid to schools,” and released his proposed spending plan for the coming year, in a brief State House address that provided few specific details about the budget.
More details on local aid to schools will be coming, as district-by-district school aid figures are required by law to be released within 48 hours of the governor’s budget address.
Pension Reform Gov. Christie’s address focused largely on the state’s public employee pension crisis. He referenced a 51-page report, released today by the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefits Study Commission and titled “A Roadmap to Resolution.” The report recommended freezing the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund at its current level (that is, not allowing any new benefits to accrue under that system) and creating a new program that would realign state and local district responsibility for pension and retiree health benefit costs. The commission’s recommendations would require changes in state law and voter approval of a Constitutional amendment.
The New Jersey School Boards Association is evaluating the governor’s comments on pension reform and is studying the commission’s report and its potential impact on local school districts.