October 17, 2017
For immediate release
State Falling Short on School Funding, Integration, Access to Preschool & College
TRENTON (Oct. 17, 2017) — To meet the challenges of preserving a public education system that works well for many students and extending its benefits to those who still lag behind, New Jersey needs to step up efforts on funding, reducing segregation, and making college degrees more attainable, a new report from The Fund for New Jersey finds.
“Without prompt action, many more of our children will lose the opportunity to obtain the education promised in New Jersey’s Constitution,” the report says.
The report, “Providing High-Quality Public Education to All New Jersey Children,” is the sixth in the Crossroads NJ series aimed at informing public debate in this pivotal election year. It was produced by The Fund for New Jersey, which since 1970 has focused its philanthropy on improving the quality of life in the Garden State by supporting good policy decision-making. The other Crossroads NJ reports cover the state’s fiscal crisis, jobs and the economy, criminal justice, transportation, and housing and land use.
The full text of the reports, as they are released, and other information about Crossroads NJ is available at http://www.fundfornj.org/crossroadsnj.
In New Jersey’s highest-performing districts, students earn stellar standardized test scores and gain admission to top universities. The state-funded preschool program is a national model for reducing the achievement gap between low-income children and their more advantaged peers. New Jersey is nationally known for its nearly 50-year effort to improve the education of urban, low-income, African-American, and Latino students.
But, despite real improvements in the quality of their schooling, many students in urban and low-income districts still fall short of achievement levels attained in more affluent suburbs. Even within high-performing districts, the achievement of African-American and Latino students lags that of white and Asian students. And, New Jersey’s public school system is one of the most segregated in the nation, resulting in large part from public policies that fostered housing discrimination. In addition, the Legislature’s failure to evaluate the effectiveness of the state’s school finance formula and to allocate the funding mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court has perpetuated a system that too often fails students and overburdens local taxpayers.
Key recommendations include:
FULLY FUND THE SCHOOL FINANCE FORMULA
- Distribute state aid to districts in accordance with the formula established by the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.
CAREFULLY EVALUATE THE SFRA FORMULA; AS NEEDED, ADJUST ITS PROVISIONS
- Conduct an initial assessment in light of knowledge gained in nine years of partial implementation.
- Reconsider SFRA’s census-based special education funding model.
- Collect the data necessary for a full-scale evaluation of the formula, to be completed after three years of full funding.
EXPAND THE SUCCESSFUL STATE-FUNDED PRESCHOOL PROGRAM
- Adjust per-pupil funding rates according to the SFRA to restore full funding for current preschool programs and to ensure adequate funding for expanded programs.
- Commit to implementing and fully funding the preschool expansion called for in the SFRA, beginning in school year 2018-19 with full implementation by 2022.
- Continue the high-quality program standard and delivery approach that has been essential to New Jersey’s preschool success.
INCREASE COMPLETION OF POST-SECONDARY DEGREES AND CREDENTIALS
- Invest in New Jersey’s two- and four-year colleges so as to expand the number of residents who earn degrees.
- Implement and evaluate strategies to improve college completion rates.
ADVANCE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AND RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC INTEGRATION
- Require New Jersey’s existing magnet high schools to include metrics for a diverse student body in their admission decisions.
- Develop additional magnet schools, as appropriate, that include diversity criteria.
- Modify New Jersey’s Interdistrict Public School Choice program to include a controlled choice component.
- Evaluate the controlled choice program to determine whether it reduces segregation.
The Crossroads NJ series presents evidence-based policy recommendations, generated and vetted by experts. The Fund’s aim is to present a set of balanced and constructive recommendations that build a foundation for discussion, that The Fund for New Jersey Trustees feel are sound and workable.
Consistent with its status as a philanthropic foundation, The Fund for New Jersey does not support candidates or political parties.