ORANGE, NJ - One day before Governor Chris Christie announced his "Fairness Formula" for public school funding, City of Orange Township Mayor Dwayne D. Warren, Esq. led a coalition of 200 parents, children, community advocates and public school administrators to the New Jersey State Capitol to testify before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools seeking more equitable funding for the Orange school district.
Mayor Warren's testimony focused on the loss of $12.6 million in state school funding for the City of Orange Township Public Schools System and its impact on the City's tax base. The Mayor said that over 195 school districts received 100% or more in school state funding while Orange's saw a decrease.
The push for equitable funding arose from the State of New Jersey adopted the School Funding Reform Act, adopted in 2008, which includes a funding formula to determine the amount of money needed to achieve "education adequacy" for urban school districts. The testimony of Orange Board of Education Superintendent Ronald C. Lee provided the committee members with testimony outlining how the amount of aid to Orange is not enough to achieve the equity goals of the state law. He demonstrated how the Orange school system suffers from inadequate funding because the NJDOE fails to utilize the required funding formula, resulting in a $12.6 million budget shortfall.
According to information from the Education Law Center, represented at the hearing by David Sciarra, Esq., if the NJDOE had used the funding formula as required in the current budget, the Orange school system would have received $86,620,695.00 in funding, negating any need for a school tax levy increase. Instead, the State utilized a formula that only provided $74,020,695.00 for the Orange Board of Education. All of those who testified, agreed that it is impossible to provide for Orange students' educational needs at the current funding level.
Governor Christie is proposing his new plan as a constitutional amendment, which would increase state aid for 75% of school districts. However, the plan would have a tremendous negative impact on urban districts with the highest percentage of students from low-income families. Christie criticized urban school districts for their high spending and low graduation rates. The Governor will ask New Jersey legislators to put his plan before voters on the November 2017 ballot, the same election which will decide New Jersey's next governor.
Mayor Warren said, "this issue of equitable funding will certainly be an issue that is front and center in the gubernatorial race because all children deserve a quality education. Denying our children the education they deserve not only hurts our community and it weakens our nation". The Mayor's Committee on Fair Education Funding will partner with the NAACP and other advocates for children who would be impacted by the Governor's proposed plan.