To big applause, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday highlighted that his proposed fiscal 2013 budget would include an additional $213 million in aid to public schools, but the cheers may not be widespread when the details reveal how the money is distributed.
Districts are to learn today how each will fare under Christie's $32.1 billion spending plan, and although the overall amount in state school aid is going up about 1.7 percent, state officials said it will not be across-the-board increases to all 500-plus districts.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said a "vast majority of districts will be getting a slight increase." But the administration also for the first time will be using the state's funding formula in the distribution of aid, he said. The funding formula ties aid directly to the number of individual students and their needs, meaning students with limited English or low-incomes get additional sums -- or for scores of districts, especially those with falling enrollments, a decrease in the money they receive.
"There are always going to be student population changes that need to be taken into account," Sidamon-Eristoff said.
Districts and their representatives yesterday were not making judgments one way or another on Christie's budget until the aid numbers can be reviewed. And even that is not a final word, since business administrators will then need to look into the details of how money is distributed within the different aid categories.
"We have to reserve judgment until we see the level of detail that is in it," said Raymond Wiss, president of the New Jersey School Boards Association and a Northern Valley trustee. "Still, there are a lot of positives in terms of the commitment to education."
One area sure to get attention is how -- or if -- the state was going to make cuts to so-called adjustment aid, a pot of $570 million that is meant to hold districts level in the event of enrollment decreases.
Another wild card is a report expected from Chris Cerf, the acting education commissioner, later this week that could bring changes to the very funding formula that the state is following.
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