NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Governor Christie held a town hall style meeting at the DeCorso Community Center in New Providence Tuesday. The discussion focused on his proposed change to school funding called the Fairness Formula. The proposal would result in meaningful savings for 16 of the 21 municipalities in Union County. (See table below.)
New Providence Mayor Al Morgan was proud to introduce Governor Christie, the first sitting governor to visit the borough. The standing room crowd included Senator Tom Kean, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, as well as surrounding town and school administrators, concerned citizens and a group of students from New Providence High School.
Although Christie has worked to control taxes, implementing the two percent cap, he is not satisfied because taxes continue to go up every year.
The majority of the property tax bill funds the schools, the state average is 52 percent to fund the schools, said Christie. In New Providence [a high performing school district], 57 percent goes to New Providence schools. In 2015, the average spend per pupil is $17,377 which is just under the state average of $17,700, he said. New Providence receives $2,190 in state aid and a small amount of federal funding -- the balance is absorbed by property taxes.
In comparison, Christie identified several of the low performing districts that receive special treatment and receive an inproportionate amount in state aid. Asbury Park is one of those districts that receives "special treatment." Their per pupil spending is $33,699 and they receive $28,945 in state aid per pupil.
"I am tired of paying for failure," said Christie. He proposes to force changes in property taxes in the state and force change at these school districts to fit the needs of the children. Christie believes they should do away with summer break and implement a longer school day.
The state has filed a law suit against the Supreme Court that includes changing the school funding formula because it is not working, said Christie.
Avg Household Savings
Avg. Prop. Tax
Savings to Property Tax
(Editor's Note: The five Union County municipalities included in the Fairness Formula are Elizabeth, Hillside, Plainfield City, Roselle Borough and Winfield Township.)
In addition, the law suit requests the elimination of last in first out termination of teachers [it should be done based on merit; it is unconstitutional according to Christie]; and providing the Commissioner of Education the authority to veto any collective bargaining agreement which diminishes a child's ability to get a thorough and sufficient system of education.
While the Governor is not optimistic about the chances of his program being initiated, he feels it is very important to have this discussion. Next, "We have to start demanding from the Democrats who run the legislature that they put this on the ballot next fall," said Christie.
Christie accepted various question from audience members including a question from New Providence High School senior Shaden Awad, who volunteers to tutor and advocates for Syrian refugees in Elizabeth and is concerned how this Fairness Formula would impact the aid to students with language barriers. Christie assured her that Special Education and English as a Second Language funding will be exempt from the proposal.