PATERSON, NJ – Paterson’s schools would be entitled to $29 million less in state aid under funding changes proposed by the Christie administration, according to a report by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services (OLS).
The report says the district is supposed to get $450 million under the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), but would only be entitled to $421 million under revisions proposed in Education Adequacy Report produced by Christie’s education commissioner, Christopher Cerf.
In reality, as a result of budget juggling in Trenton, Paterson Public Schools and other districts around New Jersey already have been getting far less money from the state than what SFRA stipulates. In 2011-12, for example, Paterson got $400.8 million, according to its budget.
Statewide, Cerf’s report would reduce the education department’s obligation to local school districts by $162 million, according to OLS. About 100 districts would be entitled to more funding and 152 would be entitled to less, according to the OLS report.
A story by NJ Spotlight says Cerf’s plan would increase the base amounts provided to school districts but would reduce extra amounts provided for children from low-income families and students who speak limited English.
“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent the loss of this money,’’ said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly of Paterson, a member of the Assembly Budget Committee which last week voted down Cerf’s proposal. Wimberly called the proposed $29 million reduction in what Paterson is entitled to “astronomical.’’
“It’s not something we can afford,’’ the Assemblyman said.
Paterson school board member Jonathan Hodges said any reduction in state aid would “severely impact programs the state has asked us to implement.’’ For example, Hodges said, state money is being used for literacy programs in the district.
“It compromises our ability to achieve the gains that he’s (Christie) been calling for,’’ said Hodges. “They’ve not changing the demands they’re placing on us, but they’re cutting the funding. What’s going to be the result of that?’’
Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund advocacy group, warned that there’s likely to be a reduction in school funding statewide in the upcoming budget, especially because of the overall loss of revenue in the state.
“The best I think we can hope for is flat funding,’’ Sterling said. “But flat funding means we have to eat the increase in costs. So flat funding is really a cut.’’