After the high-profile political battles coupled with revealing beach photography, New Jersey’s approved, slightly delayed, final budget has some significant gains for education programs.
The push for a fully funded School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) made progress as $100 million has been allocated for underfunded districts . Another $31 million will be taken away from districts considered overfunded by the SFRA ratio. The SFRA provides additional funding for poor (at-risk) students, limited English proficient students, and students with disabilities.
Under the formula, AFT New Jersey districts will see increases, Newark among the largest. You can look up how your district will fare under the new formula. AFT New Jersey supported the increased funding hosting a series of roundtables in districts along with State Senate President Steve Sweeney. “We look forward to increased funding making its way to classrooms under the new budget,” said AFT New Jersey President Donna M. Chiera.
The Democratic budget also restored a $3.6 million cut proposed by Governor Christie to the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program and added an additional million to the program. AFT New Jersey joined EOF students in Trenton to advocate for expanding the successful program.
The budget includes an additional $25 million to expand pre-school programs, although the Governor eliminated the budget language that targeted the money to low-income districts so where it will be allocated remains unclear.
AFTNJ Secretary Lucye Millerand and URA-AFT Social Justice committee chair Karen White joined legislators, unions and progressive lobbyists in the Statehouse to call on state Assembly representatives to pass the budget as proposed without accompanying Horizon legislation. A subsequent compromise on the Horizon bill allowed the budget to move forward without funding cuts from Gov. Christie, who had the power to veto any item.
The other bill politically tied to the budget that passed will transfer the state lottery to the pension system, a move the administration says would immediately reduce the pension debt by $13.5 billion and provide a stable source of revenue for 30 years.