The Christie Administration released state school-aid figures February 27, following the Governor’s budget address Tuesday. Direct state aid for education will exceed $9 billion mark. In total, education will see a $12.9 billion increase. By law, state aid to school districts must be announced within two days of the governor's budget address.
Total state aid for education will increase by $36.8 million, from $8.977 billion to $9.014 billion in fiscal 2015. In addition, the fiscal year 2015 budget includes $519.8 million for construction debt service, as well as a total of $3.36 billion for teachers' pension, Social Security and post-retirement medical costs.
As in years past, the Administration announced that “every K-12 school district will see an increase in aid based on its projected student enrollment.” Per-pupil funding will increase by about $20 per student. In addition, two new aid categories are included:
- Per-Pupil Growth Aid: $13.5 million will be allocated to Per-Pupil Growth Aid, which can be used for virtually any general fund budget item. The decision on where to spend these funds will be made at the local level.
- PARCC Readiness: Another amount of nearly $13.5 million will be available for PARCC readiness.
The budget also included the following funding pockets:
- Innovation Fund: The proposed budget provides $5 million for an Education Innovation Fund to “cultivate innovative practices and reward success.” According to the Governor’s budget address, “the fund will provide New Jersey's educators with the support and resources necessary to pioneer innovations leveraging extended learning time in particular.” Districts can also apply for competitive funds to try out educational technology and personalized learning strategies and replicate successful new models of teaching and learning across the state. The Governor proposed a similar fund in last year’s budget which the Legislature did not include as the budget moved through the review process.
- Expansion of Interdistrict Public School Choice: The proposal also includes an $4.88 million expansion of funding for the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program.
- Extraordinary Costs of Special Education: In addition, the budget increases the state's share of extraordinary costs of special education by an additional $2.27 million, to a total of $165 million. This funding covers a portion of a district's expenses over $40,000 per student for children who are served in-district, or a portion of expenses over $55,000 for students who are served outside the district.
- Preschool Aid Increase: The proposed fiscal year 2015 budget also increases funding for preschool education by an additional $4.77 million, to a total of $652.8 million. This is due to anticipated growth in the number of children enrolled in qualifying preschool programs, which will fund 143 districts and more than 50,000 students.
The fiscal year 2015 spending plan anticipates a decline of $1.5 million for Unknown District (Homeless) expenses, as the need is expected to decline post-Sandy.