According to an audit report issued by the Office of Legislative Services, while the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) did comply with the state Appropriations Acts in how it calculated funding for school districts the last two fiscal years, not running the funding formula prescribed in the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 (SFRA) – which the Appropriations Act supersedes – created a compliance issue.
The audit also found that state aid given to districts did not always reflect their student populations and demographics. There were “significant differences between actual funding and what the SFRA dictates,” according to the report’s executive summary. While that isn’t exactly news, the audit also highlighted areas of school funding that were problematic.
Additionally the report indicated that 59 percent of districts in 2015 and 64 percent in 2016 weren’t given the proper amount for special education. The education department had applied an “average classification rate” for certain districts though their actual special-education rate deviated by more than 10 percent from the statewide average rate.
Similar problems were found as to preschool aid. The audit found that every district that qualified to receive preschool aid overestimated their projected enrollment. That resulted in the state overpaying $25.7 million to 32 districts in FY 2015 and $32.9 million to 30 districts in FY 2016.
The education department concurred with most of the findings, though it disagreed with the finding regarding special education aid, according to the audit.