Friday, July 31, 2015

"Extraordinary Aid Continues to Dwindle"

NJ Spotlight covers inadequate funding for "Extraordinary Aid."

Extraordinary Aid is the state's (partial) reimbursement program for extremely high Out of District tuition costs.  It's called "Extraordinary Aid" because the costs can be "extraordinarily high" (over $100,000 a student) and unpredictable.  Without Extraordinary Aid, a small district could be destabilized because of the random chance that a family moves in with several children with severe handicaps.

And now Extraordinary Aid payments are being cut relative to the costs of Out of District tuition.

Earlier this month, the state Department of Education alerted districts applying for the extra aid that it would pay 58 percent of the eligible costs. The funding level is a drop from 63 percent last year, and marks a significant drop from even the aftermath of the state’s fiscal crisis in 2012, when the state paid 77 percent.

Nonetheless, overall funding for extraordinary aid has remained steady. This year, the state has earmarked $165 million for such aid, the same as last year, and a slight increase over the $162.8 million budgeted in 2013.

And state officials point out that the aid has gone to offset the costs of educating more special-needs students, albeit at a smaller share per student. This year, the money is going to supplement funding for 13,200 students.

Still, as the cost of educating these students has increased, the shrinking share of extraordinary aid is emblematic of the fiscal constraints that schools are facing in addressing rising special-education costs.

The minute increase in Extraordinary Aid is the reason why I protest Adjustment Aid, Interdistrict Choice, Montclair's attempt to seize an extra $1 million, and Jersey City's growing Pre-K costs.

When the state is in a budget crisis, every dollar counts!  Jersey City alone is getting anotehr $2.7 million for Pre-K next year.  Hoboken is getting another $749,000 for Interdistrict Choice.  This gifts to high-resource districts and affluent parents on the Abbott Gold Coast hurt kids who live elsewhere!

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