government transparency and accountability, and provide a stable, predictable level of State funding on which to build their budgets.
Governor Christie’s fiscal year 2012 Budget provides for a $250 million increase in education aid, restoring some of the reductions made in the fiscal year 2011 Budget. This funding provides relief to taxpayers in the form of increased school aid for every school district in the state and flexibilities to school districts as they transition to new budget realities under the 2% property tax cap. Governor Christie is committed to making 2011 the year of education reform by enacting needed reforms to ensure that existing education funding – among the highest in the nation per-pupil – is targeted to get results for children.
Despite some of the highest levels of education spending in the entire nation, New Jersey’s public schools continue to confront a critical achievement gap that shortchanges hundreds of thousands of children. The achievement gap between wealthy and low-income 8th graders in math is nearly the same as it was 19 years ago, and the gap between at-risk 4th graders and those not at-risk has remained nearly unchanged over the past 13 years. The disparity is profound and translates to over 100,000 children trapped in nearly 200 chronically failing schools all across the state. These children are being denied the opportunity for a high-quality education merely because of their zip code.
As a moral imperative, it is embarrassing and unacceptable that children and families stuck in chronically failing public schools be asked to wait any longer for relief.
The economic consequences of our education system’s shortcomings are just as profound. Every year, vast numbers of students move through and graduate from public schools in New Jersey without the critical skills required to be competitive in college or the workforce. In 2009, nearly 30% of all 8th graders statewide lacked basic math skills.
As a state, the dynamism and quality of our workforce and the economic opportunity that follows prepared graduates suffers at incalculable costs. For New Jersey, the state’s position as an economic leader of the region and nation is contingent on the quality of the education system and the achievement of every child.
Across the nation, average per-pupil spending stood at $10,297 in 2007-2008 (the latest available data). New Jersey spends on average $17,620 per pupil on education, the highest in the nation for the same year. Despite this difference in per-pupil spending, the results do not match up.
In New Jersey, the myth that more money equals higher achievement must come to an end. It is a failed legal theory that can no longer be accepted while time, opportunity, and public money are squandered.
This is particularly true in former Abbott districts where vast sums of State tax dollars are poured in every year, increasing per-pupil spending without providing the results children deserve. Consider the comparisons to a broadly accepted marker of high student achievement and excellent educational outcomes for children – Blue Ribbon Schools.