Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Education Law Center Insults Kingsway Regional

The Kingsway Regional School District is one of New Jersey's most underaided and underfunded districts.

Kingsway Regional receives students from East Greenwich Township, Logan Township, South Harrison Township, Swedesboro and Woolwich Township, a rapidly growing area of New Jersey. Whereas SFRA says that Kingsway Regional should be receiving $19,476,369, the state only gives it $8,866,900, a $10.6 million deficit.

Kingsway thus only receives 45% of the aid SFRA says it needs. Since it has nearly 2600 students, its deficit per student is -$4325, which is one of the forty worst in New Jersey.

Kingsway Regional's taxes are over $525,000 in excess of Local Fair Share, but Kingsway's Total Budgetary Cost Per Pupil is only $10,362, which is one of the ten lowest in New Jersey. Although most of the other districts among the lowest-spending are demographically poorer than Kingsway, most of the other lowest-spending districts are K-8s, so Kingsway's budgetary distress should be seen as exceptional.

Kingsway Regional is one of the most active districts on state aid reform. They launched a petition that got 2600 signatures, have launced a letter-writing campaign, successfully gotten their legislators in favor of reform (including Senate President Steve Sweeney).

In addition to all this effort, Kingsway is suing the State of New Jersey for fair funding with a demand that Adjustment Aid be eliminated.

And to this basic demand for Justice the Education Law Center SHOUTS NO as part of its staunch defense of aid hoarding (aka "Adjustment Aid.").

Rather than even respecting Kingsway's anger, the Education Law Center mocks Kingsway, comparing it to a dog.

And then virtually celebrating the (technical) rejection of Kingsway's case by the NJ Supreme Court:

I've said before the Education Law Center and its chief David Sciarra were reactionaries, but I didn't realize they were such assholes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

SFRA Was Never Fully Funded

One of the most pernicious myths about the School Funding Reform Act is that it was fully funded in its first year, 2008-2009.

This myth is spread by the Education Law Center
NJ’s weighted student funding formula – codified as the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) – stands as a national model of state public school finance. But the formula has not been fully funded since its first year in law (2008-09), and was cut in 2010-11 by Governor Chris Christie.

Including from Paul Tractenberg himself:

Tractenberg said the current state funding formula under the School Funding Reform Act has only been fully funded once under Christie. That's the real problem that should be addressed, he said.

and picked up by many journalists.

Example, Meir Rinde of NJSpotlight

The formula was run and funded for one year. Then the recession hit, Christie was elected, and he cut education aid overall by $1 billion (though half of that was eventually restored to Abbott districts).

“The school funding formula that is written into law has only been fully funded once in the last seven years.”
And even the state legislature:
WHEREAS, While the SFRA was used to distribute State school aid for the 2008-2009 school year, since then the SFRA has not been fully funded and its provisions which lay out a constitutional pathway for the distribution of State school aid have been ignored and overridden;
However, SFRA was never fully funded in a real sense because in that first year districts were only funded at their Capped Aid levels.

It's rarely explained, but SFRA contains a cap in the amount of aid an underaided district can gain in a single year, either a 10% boost if the district is above Adequacy or a 20% boost if the district is below Adequacy.

From the statute itself:
d. For the purposes of this section, “State aid growth limit” means 10% in the case of a district spending above adequacy and 20% in the case of a district spending below adequacy. 

Due to the existence of these caps, there is a difference between the statutory full funding of SFRA and the real full funding of SFRA, which would be funding every district at uncapped aid.

In 2008-09, yes, every district was funded at its Capped Aid level, but there was a $1 billion funding deficit between actual aid and uncapped aid, which, again, is the real demographic-economic aid level for districts.

I got these data from the Department of Education via an OPRA request and have put the Actual Aid vs Capped Aid data online.

Let's look at Clifton as an example of how the State Aid Growth Limits (aka "caps") reduce a district's aid:

SFRA's formulas looked at Clifton's enrollment and tax capacity and determined Clifton should get $55,999,000, which would have been $5300 per student.

But what did Clifton actually get in 2008-2009, the year SFRA was "fully funded"?


Which is only $2,600 per student.

$27 million is actually 40% higher than Clifton's 2007-08 aid of $19 million, so I admit I don't know quite was going on here, but I know 

$27,374,845  $55,999,000.

And there are 278 districts that were, like Clifton, not fully funded in 2008-09, despite so many groups and journalists saying they were.

These are just the largest deficits in absolute terms:

The data I received from the DOE had errors for certain districts which I have removed from this graph, and yet reappear in the original source material:

River Edge was the most underaided in NJ in percentage terms, getting only 19% of its uncapped aid. Northvale, Clinton, and Chesterfield also in the bottom four.

I don't have comprehensive enrollment data, but it appears that Manchester Regional was the most underaided in per student terms, with a $5300 per student deficit.

Overall, in that year there were 44 districts who got less than 50% of their uncapped aid.  That is also substantially better than at present, when 141 districts get less than 50% of their uncapped aid.
So, again, in 2008-2009, SFRA was fully funded in a statutory sense, but not a real sense.

The total cumulative deficit for the 279 underaided districts that year was $1.05 billion (not counting vo-techs).

Adjustment Aid was $850,612,518 ($948 million with inflation) that year so the net deficit appears to have been smaller then than now (It is now $1.4 billion in 2016 dollars, counting vo-techs), but when so many districts were still in 2008-09 substantially underaided, it's wildly inaccurate to say that "SFRA was fully funded in its first year."

Here's the bottom line:

New Jersey, going back to the 1970s, has always struggled to fully fund its aid formula.

Since the Great Depression, New Jersey's fiscal situation has never been worse, nor its economy more slowly growing.

New Jersey did not fully fund SFRA in 2008-09, and our oncoming pension depletion, stagnant economic growth, and the high spending targets of SFRA make fully funding SFRA now unrealistic unless the Democrats were to pass tax increases much larger than they have ever hinted at.


See Also:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017-18 Looks Like Another Bad Year for State Aid

State Aid is Zero-Sum.
Accept It

Gentle Reader, we do not know if Christie will allow any state aid redistribution, will flat-fund all districts yet again, or even attempt to implement his so-called "Fairness Formula."

But one thing we can rule out is any significant increase in state aid as indications mount that it will be another bad year budgetarily for New Jersey.

The State Treasury created the FY2017 budget with an expectation that revenue would increase by 3.6% (which is $1 billion), but 3.6% isn't happening.

In December 2016, the Treasury said that revenues were only up by 2.1%.

In January 2017, things are worse, with the Treasury saying that revenues are only up by 1.7%.

These numbers are for FY2017 and FY2018 could be better (especially if people start taking more capital gains), but we are below where we forecasted ourselves being at this time last winter.  Persistently low revenue also makes Fitch and Moody's more likely to follow S&P in downgrading our debt, which will mean higher borrowing costs for New Jersey.

And even in good years, growth in the PHD costs of Pensions, Healthcare, and Debt exceed or equal New Jersey's revenue growth.

On top of low revenues so far, the tax cuts for the Transportation Trust Fund will start to eat into revenue and the state must reserve more money to make quarterly pension payments.

I'll let real experts ascribe causation to NJ's bad revenues and forecast FY2018, but I know this: Things Look Bad and the NJEA/Education Law Center's demand "Just Fund the Formula" is more ridiculous than ever.
Adjusted for Inflation, New Jersey's Quarter Revenues are
Still Lower than They Were Pre-Recession
Source: Pew Fiscal 50

And for anyone who thinks this mess is entirely Christie's fault and things will get better after we have a new governor and higher taxes, look at Connecticut, whose FY2018 deficit is yet again 8% of state revenue. ($1.5 billion out of $19 billion)

What this means we have to fight even harder for redistribution because fairness isn't going to come through new spending.

Sorry everyone, but ZERO-SUM RULES.  We have no choice but to redistribute state aid.


See Also

Monday, January 30, 2017

PILOTed Chic: Asbury Park's Concealed Wealth

The Monroe Apartments:
Asbury Park PILOTed Chic
Asbury Park is one of the most notorious aid hoarders in New Jersey.  

Asbury Park gets $55.4 million in K-12 aid for only 2300 students, or about $24,000 per student. That $55.4 million K-12 package is $25 million in EXCESS of what SFRA says it needs.  That excess alone works out to $10,900 per student, an amount that is higher than the TOTAL per pupil aid of the poorest non-Abbotts, such as Prospect Park, East Newark, and Woodlynne and virtually all working class districts in NJ.

At a time when nearby Freehold Boro "packs students in on top of one another" and has carved up its library into little classrooms and busses 200 students daily to rented classrooms in other towns, Asbury Park was able in 2014 to reopen a disused elementary school so that every child in the 1.4 square mile town could have a short walk to school.

ASBURY PARK – With two eager elementary children prancing at her side, Erin Hicks walked up to the reopened Barack H. Obama Elementary School with a smile of relief.
For the first time since her now second-grade son started kindergarten, Hicks has an elementary school in her neighborhood. 
"It's easier for me because I live right across the street," said Hicks, who also has a 5-year-old daughter at Barack Obama. "I don't have to deal with the aggravation of school buses." 
Hicks' frustration with kids being bused from the Bangs Avenue neighborhood to schools across town was recognized by the school district, which officially reopened the school on Thursday.

The elementary school reopening took place amidst a continuation of a decades-long decline in student population brought on by family outmigration, Interdistrict Choice outmigration, and charter school outmigration.

As absurd as that $25 million excess is, things will become even more absurd as gentrification hits Asbury Park, increases the tax base (and further decreases the student population.)

Indeed, the Asbury Park Press has a great story up about Asbury Park's real estate boom, "The Changing Face of Asbury Park."

Rents have increased by 17% from 2010 to 2015.  The average price of a home in Asbury Park is now $260,000, which is not that far off from New Jersey's $300,000 average.

Now, instead of deinvestment, Asbury Park is starting to experience gentrification on its East Side:

Since the fits and starts of the beachfront redevelopment began in earnest after 2006, Asbury Park has become two towns. The east side bubbles with upscale housing, restaurants, shops, nightlife, a refurbished boardwalk — even a pinball museum where $10 gets you an hour on any classic machine of your choice. Millionaires buy summer condos that overlook the wide, pristine sands and ocean....
Driving up the prices: wealthy Manhattanites looking to scoop up waterfront condos at places like the Monroe. The 34-unit project along Heck Avenue offers units ranging from $400,000 to $1.2 million. 
Sixty percent of the units have already sold out ahead of the building's opening later this year.
And that gentrification is causing displacement:

"Some longtime residents struggle to keep up with the increased cost of living in their small town.... 
"I lived not more than three blocks away from the beach most of my life," said Jennifer Lewinski. "I can't afford to live there now. I live on the west side. It's just not what I'm used to," she said.

The West Side and the public school students remain poor, but from the perspective of tax base that  
PILOTed Luxury:
The Monroe Apartments, Asbury Park:
Don't you wish your shower
were this nice?
disparity is irrelevant, since when it comes to taxes


So this is all great, right? Doesn't this boom mean NJ can redistribute even more of Asbury Park's school aid (assuming Adjustment Aid is eliminated?)

Reinvestment is a good thing, but it's not that great for school aid redistribution. 

Yes, Asbury Park's existing housing stock is increasing in value and increasing Asbury Park's Equalized Valuation, but the new development is PILOTed and therefore does not count toward Asbury Park's Equalized Valuation.

Since Equalized Valuation is half of the basis of Local Fair Share (along with Aggregate Income), from the perspective of state aid, it's like all of Asbury Park's new luxury condos were still vacant land.  

ASBURY PARK – It sounds like a sweet deal: build upscale, luxury townhomes overlooking the waterfront, sell them for nearly half a million dollars and get off the hook from paying school taxes for 30 years.
That's the agreement master developer iStar Financial inked with the city in 2012, hoping to unlock waterfront development that had been stagnant for several decades. 
Instead of school taxes, the deal calls for waterfront residents to pay a special assessment that funds infrastructure — like sewers, roads and streetlights — for the development of more than 2,000 waterfront residential units over the next decade. ...
 The iStar agreement is one of 15 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, or PILOTs, in the city that waive school taxes for developments.
PILOTs and tax abatements, which are widely used in municipalities across the country , grant tax exemptions to developers and businesses who contest their property value is too high, or as an incentive for them to build in blighted areas. [ed note. Most NJ towns have 0-3% of property abated and for school districts that do not qualify for Equalization Aid there is no distortion of state aid.]
The difference is that PILOTs require the developer to make a payment in lieu of a property tax, and tax abatements reduce or eliminate a tax. 
Municipalities in New Jersey forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year through abatements and tax incentives, according to the Office of State Comptroller, a state investigative arm. 
Other tax incentive agreements in Asbury Park include the Steinbach building, 550 Cookman Avenue and Asbury Towers. Those three buildings combined were exempt from $318,000 in school taxes in 2013 based on their tax assessments and a school tax rate of $1.61 per $100 of assessed value. 
City tax assessor Erick Aguiar said that school tax amount could be significantly higher than what they would actually pay since developers who are tax exempt don't appeal their property assessments. Also, there will be reasessments of properties this year which could mean some property owners will pay higher taxes, others will see a tax cut.

And if Asbury Park's new luxury condos are owned as second homes, then their owners' incomes don't even count towards Aggregate Income.

So, the battle for reform has to focus on Adjustment Aid, but if New Jersey is really going to have equity, we have to reform the PILOT law too.  It's too bad that the Education Law Center doesn't protest PILOT deals, but they're the NJEA's law firm you know, and the NJEA is too furious about charter schools to notice the unfairness around tax abatements.

Fortunately, Steve Sweeney's state aid proposal has always had a provision to reform PILOTing. Let's hope he is able to get his proposal past Vincent Prieto (who emotionally represents the heavily PILOTed-up Jersey City, although he is elected by the working class west half of Hudson County).

See Also:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The NJEA is Against Reform Too

The NJEA Opposes Reform Too.

On this blog, I've repeatedly criticized Vincent Prieto for betraying his own  severely underaided constituents by blocking state aid reform.  I've criticized Phil Murphy repeatedly too for his deafening indifference to state aid reform.

Prieto's real reasons for opposing reform aren't public, but much evidence points to Prieto's relationship with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

Fulop, who showed his hostility to fair taxation through his strenuous and years-long opposition to a desperately-needed property tax reval for Jersey City, openly brags "I have significant clout with Speaker Prieto," repeatedly dismisses the significance of state aid reform and has confidently said "there's a long road" before any loss of Jersey City's state aid happens.

Insiders have reported to me that Fulop sees the potential of aid losses for Jersey City as intended to "hurt" hims personally and Jersey City as a whole.  As his opposition to a reval showed his lack of concern for working class parts of Jersey City, he has an even less of a concern for school children who live outside of his Gold Coast Abbott bubble.

Fulop's belief that aid reform is intended to hurt him personally is a strange belief for an informed New Jerseyan to have, but then again, Steve Fulop also said that the push for a property tax reval in Jersey City was "motivated purely by hatred for me," so Fulop's reasoning is more self-centered than a normal person's would be.

Not every Jersey City politician (and resident) is as bad as Steve Fulop is.  Jersey City's state senators, Sandra Cunningham and Brian Stack, appear to accept reform, but Steve Fulop and his clique certainly are absolutely indifferent to any taxpayer or student who lives outside of Jersey City.

I focus on Jersey City's role in opposition to state aid reform because it is so much more powerful than any other overaided district.  Other overaided districts are in the same legislative districts as underaided districts and so their opposition is neutralized.  For instance, Asbury Park is in the same legislative district as Freehold Boro and Red Bank Boro, and so Asbury Park's three representatives (Sen. Jennifer Beck, Asm. Eric Hougtaling and Asw. Joann Downey) are strongly pro-reform.  Pemberton has even publicly accepted state aid redistribution.

HOWEVER, Steve Fulop isn't the only special interest Vincent Prieto is listening to.

New Jersey's most powerful lobby, the NJEA, is also against reform and is making that opposition clearer.  The NJEA's opposition to aid reform goes back decades; the NJEA originally opposed the aid increases+redistribution that Jim Florio wanted as part of Abbott implementation in the early 1990s.

Since Steve Sweeney started fighting for reform, the NJEA has been conspicuously absent from the struggle for fairness, even though it would benefit tens of thousands of teachers in underaided districts.

The NJEA already called the concept of state aid redistribution "divisive" but at last week's legislative hearings on state aid, it put its power firmly against reform and for Vincent Prieto's nebulous plan for another committee.

NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan today called on members of the Joint Committee on Public Schools to commit to fully funding the state’s existing school funding formula, known as SFRA. She pointed out that since 2010, SFRA has been underfunded by approximately $1 billion per year by the Christie Administration. As a result, school funding across the state has been distorted, leading to what she called “gross inequities” among districts. 
Blistan also noted that it is incorrect to say that the SFRA formula itself is the problem, because it has been neglected for so long. She told legislators that talk about how to “fix” the formula is a diversion, because the real problem is that it’s never been funded. 
Blistan criticized two competing school funding proposals, one from Gov. Christie and one from Senate President Steve Sweeney that purport to address problems with school funding. Both proposals would reduce funding to hundreds of thousands of students. While Christie’s proposal is more draconian, Sweeney’s would reduce aid to approximately 715,000 students across the state. Both proposals would pit communities against each other and reduce funding too. Blistan was adamant that “choosing the lesser of two evils is not acceptable here.” She urged legislators to support a proposal championed by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto that would preserve the existing formula while also studying it to determine where it could be more effective.
What the NJEA should be doing is supporting reform, but also favoring an amendment to the tax cap law so that the BOEs of aid-losing districts have the automatic power to raise their tax levies without a referendum to make up for lost aid.   This provision is already in Steve Sweeney's state aid reform bill, but the NJEA ignores it.

As usual, the NJEA demanded that the state change charter school funding and impose a moratorium on charter school expansions and approvals.
Blistan also called on the legislators to recognize the need to address charter school issues in any examination of school funding, calling for much greater transparency in how they report their finances. “Charter schools were never intended to create a separate system,” Blistan told legislators. She reiterated NJEA’s call for a moratorium on charter school approvals and expansions until a full study of New Jersey’s charter school law and its effects over the last 20 years can be completed. She lauded Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Senator Ron Rice for sponsoring a bill to put that moratorium in place.
The charter school notion is a pathetic distraction.  Most of New Jersey's underfunded districts are not affected by charter schools in any way or any substantial way.  A change in charter school funding would do nothing for Bound Brook, Manchester Regional, Dover etc.

Several NJ districts who are affected by charter schools, such as Hoboken, Vineland, Camden, and (of course) Jersey City, are OVERFUNDED.  

Clifton is Devastated by Underaiding and Huge Cost
Increase for the Passaic County Technical Institute.

The NJEA Doesn't Give a F*^k. 
As usual, the NJEA ignores the negative financial affects of any school choice model that doesn't include charters.

For instance, the NJEA is silent on the deleterious affects of the Passaic County Technical Institute's expansion for Passaic County districts.  The expansion of the PCTI has been a large growing expense for districts like Clifton, since the Clifton BOE must pay $18,000 per student for each Clifton student at the PCTI and Clifton had an additional 70 students enroll for 2016-17.  The cost increases for the PCTI were a very large cause of Clifton's devastating 2016 budget cuts in which 50 teachers were laid off from a district whose class sizes were already very large.  

The NJEA's opposition to aid reform is also a likely explanation for Phil Murphy's indifference and silence on state aid.

Murphy, who was UNANIMOUSLY endorsed by the 125 member NJEA politburo back in October, has been extremely evasive on whether or not he thinks redistribution is appropriate. and his official stance is that he will "fully fund the formula," despite the state's budget crisis and Murphy's own clear prioritization of pension, post-retirement medical, higher ed, PreK, EITC funding plus a slew of new tax credits.

VINCENT PRIETO's opposition to state aid reform is blatantly political and is a true betrayal of PRieto's own severely underaided constituents in District 32 (including North Bergen, East Newark, Fairview, Kearny, and Guttenberg).

Yet, Prieto's opposition is motivated by more than just his subservience to Steve Fulop.  The NJEA's opposition likely plays a part as well.

If you are not an NJEA member there is no hope in persuading the NJEA to be realistic.  If you don't live in Jersey City there's nothing you can do to influence Steve Fulop.  But if you have not already called Vincent Prieto's office about state aid reform and Assembly Education Chair Marlene Caride's office, please do so now!

Prieto's number is (201) 770-1303

Marlene Caride's number is 201- 943-0615

The Assembly Democrats' office number is (609) 847-3500

Call them as soon as you can!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Three Cheers for Pemberton!

Tony Trogone of Pemberton:
Doing the Right Thing

The State Senate Education Funding Committee's hearing at Kingsway Regional had a great deal of emotional testimony from parents and administrators of underfunded school districts who demanded a redistribution of Adjustment Aid.

I will write more of that soon, but I wanted to highlight the surprising testimony by Pemberton's Superintendent.

The Pemberton is actually NJ's second most overfunded district (after Jersey City), with over $26 million in excess aid, or nearly $6,000 per student.

At the hearing, Pemberton's superintendent said that Pemberton was ready to lose Adjustment Aid:

Pemberton Township is one of the so-called overfunded districts and stands to lose millions if it's adjustment aid is eliminated. That's no easy pill to swallow, but township school officials say it's still preferable to Gov. Chris Christie's proposal to scrap the funding formula altogether and give all districts a flat per-pupil amount. 
Doing so would likely result in significant aid increases for many underfunded districts, but Pemberton Township would stand to lose $52 million [this is erroneous, the amount is $26 million] , well over half of its $83 million in annual aid. 
Superintendent Tony Trongone made the trip to Kingsway to testify in favor of his district, which has large populations of students from military families serving on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, as well as substantial populations of students from poor families. Most of the township is also in the protected Pinelands Reserve, which limits its ability to grow its tax base. 
Despite those challenges, Trongone supports Sweeney's approach and said the district has spent several years trying to reduce its reliance on Adjustment Aid. 
"We've been waiting for this shoe to drop. The district has been fiscally prudent for when this time has come," he said, adding that he believes there is also a moral obligation to support fairness for school districts like Delran and Chesterfield that have been shortchanged. 
"I want to do everything I can for Pemberton. But I know we have to look at the bigger picture," Trongone said.

The source of this quote is from this Burlington County Times article (which has some errors in it)

Pemberton's Mayor has also come out in acceptance of losing Adjustment Aid.  I now feel bad about calling Pemberton an "aid hoarder."  

Troy Singleton Epitomizes the Breakdown of the Legislative Process on State Aid

Update: Troy Singleton has Tweeted to me that he is actually a sponsor of Steve Sweeney's state aid reform resolution in the Assembly. Since Sweeney's bill is all about redistribution, I find that hard to square with the anti-redistribution comments Singleton has made.  I await further elaboration from the Assemblyman.

What On Earth Are You Thinking?
Troy Singleton is an Assemblyman from New Jersey's 7th Legislative District, located entirely in Burlington County.

Singleton is the vice-chair of the Assembly Education Committee, behind Marlene Caride.  Singleton's comments on education often are reported in the media.

The school districts making up District 7 are:

Beverly, Bordentown Regional, Burlington Township, Cinnaminson, Delanco, Delran, Edgewater Park, Florence, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Palmyra, Riverside, Riverton, and Willingboro.

It does NOT include Pemberton.  (relevance to come)

Yet, even though Singleton is on the Education Committee, and as a legislator ought to understand how deep NJ's fiscal problems are, he has no coherent view on state aid.  

Back in April 2016, Singleton appeared to be a glimmer of hope on state aid reform, saying at an Assembly hearing, "I still believe that 'Hold Harmless Aid' is a misnomer."

At the time I was thrilled by that and thought Singleton was one of the Good Guys, so you can imagine my disappointment when I read the following recent statement from him on the subject of state aid redistribution:

"Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, cited an Office of Legislative Services study that found that at least 20 school districts in Burlington County would receive less aid if all existing school funding was prorated solely according to the formula. Some districts like Beverly, Burlington City, Pemberton and Willingboro would lose considerable amounts of aid and force those communities to either drastically raise property taxes or make significant cuts to school programs. 
"I can't believe that's what we really all want. We have to find a way to come up with the resources needed," Singleton said."
This statement of Singleton's is truly unbelievable.  District 7 has exactly two overaided districts, Beverly City and Willingboro, and each district is barely overaided, so they face minor losses of state aid and, if they wanted to make up the losses through taxes, relatively small increases.  

Willingboro is overaided by a trivial amount: $529,312, or $144 per student. That aid surplus is equivalent to only 0.7% of Willingboro's $71 million total operating budget. Beverly City is more overaided, by$184,330, or $619 per student, but that surplus is still only 2.7% of Beverly City's $6,810,533 total operating budget.

So I have no idea what Singleton's definition of "considerable" is, Willingboro and Beverly City's excesses don't count as "considerable" in my book.  

By contrast, Singleton's District 7 has EIGHT (8) districts who are more underaided than Beverly City is overaided.

  • Delran is underaided by $4781 per student.
  • Riverside is underaided by $4018 per student.
  • Bordentown Regional is underaided by $3420 per student.
  • Edgewater Park is underaided by $3187 per student
  • Burlington Township is underaided by $3166 per student.
  • Palmyra is underaided by $2205 per student.
  • Riverton is underaided by $1447 per student.
  • Florence Township is underaided by $1194 per student.
Delran, in fact, is one of NJ's greatest activists for fair aid. OurFairShareNJ, in fact, was founded by Delran residents. 

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

Again, Pemberton Township is not in Singleton's district, but it is New Jersey's second biggest aid hoarder, after Jersey City, with a monstrous $25.8 million aid surplus, or $5,981 per student, itself a figure that is the 9th highest per pupil aid surplus in New Jersey.

Even though Pemberton is about 44% FRL eligible and has barely any ELLs, Pemberton gets $19,000 per student.  That $19,000 per student the third biggest state aid package in New Jersey, after fellow Abbotts Asbury Park and Keansburg.  

(As an Abbott district, Pemberton also gets PreK and 100% state-funded facilities.)

Finally, although aid redistribution should not be conditioned on spending relative to Adequacy, Willingboro and Beverly City are both ABOVE Adequacy by amounts greater than what they would lose. Willingboro is $2,167,656 above Adequacy. Beverly City is $1,048,242 above Adequacy.  

For the last two years, cost increases for
Pensions, Health Care, and Debt have
Exceeded or Equaled Revenue
So Troy Singleton, What Are You Thinking When you Put Pemberton's Grotesque Excess Ahead of Your Own Constituents?!!?!?!?

Singleton answer. as recorded at the hearing and in a Twitter comment to me, is that the formula should be fully funded, "We have to find a way to come up with the resources needed,"

But Singleton has no idea how to do this BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY TO DO THIS.  NJ's increased costs for Pensions, Health Care, and Debt consume all new revenue and the politically plausible tax increases we could pass on the rich would be insufficient to fully fund SFRA.  

The K-12 component of SFRA is underfunded by $1,946,380,097 if redistribution is not allowed and that $1,946,380,097 figure is an increasing target.

The PreK component of SFRA is underfunded by about $675 million.  ($675 m = 50k eligible students * $13,500 per student)

NJ's higher education system has been underfunded (and irrationally funded) too.  

NJ's non-pension debt servicing will decline starting in 2019 and perhaps economic growth will accelerate, but the tax cuts that were part of the TTF deal will consume $1 billion a year starting in FY2018  (which Singleton voted FOR) combined with the many non-education obligations we need to increase spending on means that we are in no position to fully fund SFRA.

Singleton Proves Sweeney is Right on the Process

Since June 2016, Steve Sweeney has proposed not an ordinary legislative process to restructure state aid, but the creation of an ad hoc, empowered committee that would decide on changes and then have a straight up-or-down vote in the legislature.

Sweeney's argument is that the legislature is incapable of redistributing state aid because legislators would fail to see the big picture and protect their own constituents.

Troy Singleton, sadly, proves how correct Sweeney's judgment is, since not only does Singleton want to protect (some of) his own constituents, but other districts that happen to be in Burlington County, including indefensibly overaided Pemberton.

And even if NJ could fully fund SFRA, how is it fair to have some districts at 100% funding while others are at 120%, 160%, even 500% of their funding?

Troy Singleton was never passionate about state aid, but last spring he appeared to be a Good Guy.  I don't know what happened.  This stance could be an attempt to curry favor with Vincent Prieto (who in turn is working for Steve Fulop) or the NJEA.  It could be just a delusion that NJ is rich enough to not have to cut any district's state aid.

Sigh.  For state aid reform to happen, underaided districts are going to have to push a lot harder.

Singleton's office number is (856) 234-2790. Call him.