PATERSON, NJ – Most school districts in New Jersey received increases in state funding under the plan unveiled by Gov. Christie on Thursday. But Paterson was not one of them. It’s among the 16 percent of school districts in the state that will get reduced funding under the budget.
Paterson Public Schools will get $863,244 less in state aid in 2012-13 than it received this year. That represents a cut of less than one-third of one percent of the $398.8 million total aid figure for 2011-2012.
“I’m disappointed,’’ said Paterson Schools Commissioner Christopher Irving. “They’re continually asking us to do more with less, but the expectations don’t go down.’’
The cut was nowhere near as drastic as the $80 million reduction that devastated Paterson two years ago, forcing hundreds of layoffs and major program cuts. For this current year, Paterson received an increase of more than $20 million, but that did not bring the district back to where it was several years ago.
Statewide, Christie announced an increase of $213 million in education funding. “Since taking office, one of my greatest priorities has been working to ensure that every child in the state receives a high quality education that will prepare them for the demands of the 21st century,” the governor said in a press release. “In addition to increasing overall spending on education to the highest levels in state history, we can and will go further to implement common sense ways that will make every education dollar count.’’
A review of state aid figures for all districts showed that almost all of those taking the hardest cuts were urban areas. Camden, for example, lost $5.5 million, East Orange $2.9 million, Asbury Park $2.4 million, Irvington $1.5 million, and Passaic $1.1 million. In comparison to those places, Paterson did well. Newark had a $675,000 reduction while Jersey City will get $1 more than this year.
State aid figures for all New Jersey school districts can be found at: .
Paterson Schools Commissioner Pedro Rodriguez said it was “hard to say” whether Paterson is getting enough state funding for its. He said Paterson already spends more than $20,000 per student, far more than most other districts in New Jersey.
“What we should focus on is how we are spending the money,’’ Rodriguez said. “We have to do a better job of investing the money in the classrooms than we have been doing.’’
The Christie administration on Thursday also released an Education Funding Report by acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, which officials touted as a blueprint to incorporate “common sense changes” in state education funding.
“While money certainly matters, there is no evidence that money alone will close the achievement gap,” said Cerf in the press release. “Over the last 40 years, we’ve talked a lot about equalizing funding, but we need to change the conversation to focus on whether students are learning the same everywhere, rather than simply whether we are spending the same everywhere.”