Edison taxpayers and students are being cheated by the New Jersey State Legislature by its failure to implement the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) of 2008. Based on the State’s “estimated” 2016 student enrollment of 14,758 (actual enrollment is 15,680 as of September 30, 2016), Edison’s equalized valuation of $15,665,351,307, and the aggregate income of $3,985,987,941, Edison School District should receive for 2016-17 “uncapped aid” of $37,051,030, according to the SFRA law passed by the Legislature in 2008. However, the Legislature has given Edison “capped aid” of $14,035,490, or a deficit of $23,015,540.
Looked at from another perspective, Edison Schools receive actual state aid per student of $951, instead of their “uncapped aid” per student of $2511, a deficit per student of $1560. Edison gets 37.9% of the uncapped aid we are entitled to by the SFRA.
Where does all this money go to that is withheld by the State from Edison taxpayers and students? Most of it is directed to “adjustment aid,” a $600 million “discretionary” fund used by legislators for “hold harmless” aid for districts that would have lost money under the SFRA, or to fund pet educational projects of legislators.
Edison School District is not the only district being shortchanged from their entitlement state aid. But of the 592 districts receiving aid, Edison is one of the lowest 50 districts in the state on the basis of receiving only 37.9% of their SFRA entitlement aid. On the other hand, there are favored districts that receive 200% or more of their uncapped aid. For example, Asbury Park gets $10,929 aid per student over their SFRA entitlement, and their wealthy next door neighbor district of Deal Boro receives $9839 in additional aid per student.
No wonder there are screams to reform the “reform” funding system of state aid. Governor Chris Christie has trumpeted a “Fairness Formula to reallocate $6499 for each student on the premise that the “money follows the student.” Senate President Stephen Sweeney has proposed a “Formula4Success” plan to redistribute aid over a five-year period. Other “fairness” state aid plans are being put forth by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Education Chair Marlene Caride, as well as Governor Candidate Assemblyperson Jack Ciattarelli.
Board member Theresa Ward is the Chair of the Equitable State Aid Committee, and has done a laudable job of contacting legislators and spearheading the movement to give Edison Schools their fair share of state aid. Being shortchanged $23 million dollars in state aid year after year after year, restricts our ability to provide for the needs of our students and overcrowded schools. Email, call and meet with your legislators to demand your fair share in state aid! Click here to access your representatives. (Click here for a sample letter to your legislator.)
Frank Heelan, Ed.D., President November, 2016
Edison Board of Education