One troubling insertion was an extra $1 million for Montclair (and only Montclair) for "Achievement Gap Aid."
What's comic/infuriating about this is that the legislature cannot just write an appropriation : "Give e "$1 million to Montclair," so it must construct statutory language that is facially available to any district, but so clause-ridden only one district, Montclair, could qualify.
the Commissioner of Education shall award a grant to a racially-diverse school district in which significant achievement gaps have been observed among different racial groups and between economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged groups of students. A racial-diverse school district shall be one in which, during the 2013-2014 school year: 1) no less than 45 percent of the students, and no more than 55 percent of the district's schools were White 2) no less than 25 percent of the students, and no more than 35 percent of the students enrolled in the district's schools were Black; 3) no less than 5% of the students, and no more than 15% of the students enrolled in the district's schools were Latino. 4) no less than 5 percent of the students enrolled in the district's schools were Asian. A school district shall be considered to have a significant achievement gap if, on the language arts literacy and mathematics sections of the State assessments administered in the 2013-14 school year: 1)the percentage point difference in the proficiency rates of the racial subgroups with the highest and lowest proficiency rates is greater than 25 percentage points; and 2) the percentage point difference in the proficiency rates between economically disadvantaged students and other students is greater than 25 percentage points.A school district receiving a grant shall use the funds to implement programs with the objective of decreasing observed achievement gaps.
The school district receiving a grant shall use the funds to implement programs with the objective of decreasing observed achievement gaps.
The reason for the precision is that Montclair and South Orange-Maplewood are so similar demographically that any paragraph with fewer clauses would enable South Orange-Maplewood to receive money too, something that Montclair and Nia Gill could not tolerate. As it turns out, Montclair wrote in several provisions blocking South Orange-Maplewood from getting aid: South Orange-Maplewood's Asian and Latino populations are at 4%, not 5% and South Orange-Maplewood's black population is at 38%, above the Gill/Montclair threshold of 35%.
Closing the achievement gap is a national priority, but Montclair isn't the only district facing a gap and the fact is that Montclair is one of the best aided of all suburban districts.
Montclair is one of the only suburban districts to get Adjustment Aid and its total aid is already nearly $1,000 a student, which is slightly more than West Orange's $987 a student and South Orange-Maplewood's $615 a student, even though West Orange's FRL-eligible percentage is much higher than Montclair's and South Orange-Maplewood's is equal.
Montclair has $968,000 in property wealth per student, compared to only $852,000 a student for West Orange and $849,000 per student for South Orange-Maplewood. Montclair's median income is also the highest of all the three diverse Essex County districts.
Montclair's student population has grown nowhere nearly as much as West Orange and South Orange-Maplewood's have. Back in 2006 Montclair had only 6,621 students, which is barely less than it has now. By contrast, West Orange has grown from 6,662 to 7,026. South Orange-Maplewood has had an even larger population increase, from 6,074 to 6,743.
Although Clifton and Bloomfield get much more aid than Montclair, their local resources are inadequate to fund their schools. Montclair's per student spending is $15,3000. Belleville's student spending is only $10,800. Bloomfield's is $12,800. Those are the diverse districts that should gets some special state aid. West Orange accepts an exorbitant tax rate and therefore spends more per student than Montclair. South Orange-Maplewood also has a higher tax rate (2.0) than Montclair, but that isn't enough and it only spends $14,418.
This is part of a long history by Montclair of trying to game the system to procure extra aid for itself. In the 1990s Montclair was so successful in getting more aid that it got more aid per student than Bloomfield.
Chris Christie was right to veto Montclair's attempt to cut in line.