With the recent announcement of a bill to create the State School Aid Funding Fairness Commission, New Jersey may have its latest best chance to address the continuing inequities in the distribution of state aid to school districts.
In order to simplify what can be a complex topic, I developed a metric to bring together three essential variables that quantify the inequities experienced by New Jersey communities with regard to state aid to schools, local taxation, and district spending adequacy. This metric is the Funding Fairness Index (FFI). The FFI combines (1) the percentage of state aid received; (2) the percentage of local fair share contributed by tax levy; and (3) the percentage of adequacy spending budgeted.
For example, the Newton Public Schools are expecting to receive 56% of the uncapped state aid we are due according to the funding formula for the 2016-17 school year. At the same time, the local tax levy will be 44% higher than the state-calculated local fair share. These funding realities result in a budget that is under adequacy at 97% of the state-identified adequacy spending level.
The Funding Fairness Index combines the percentage of uncapped state aid above or below 100% (56 minus 100, or -44 in Newton's case) plus the percentage that the tax levy is above or below 100% of the local fair share (144 minus 100, or -44) plus the percentage a district's budget is above or below 100% adequacy (100 minus 97, or -3).
The result is an FFI score of (-44)+(-44)+(-3) = -91, placing Newton's funding situation as the 24th worst among the state's 591 school districts. You can find your school district in the complete NJ State Aid Database for the upcoming fiscal year 2017.
For updated news and further information on school funding inequity, visit the School Funding Fairness webpage on the Newton Public Schools site.