Christie says current school funding formula is ‘definition of insanity’
WALL — After putting forth a proposal last week to create an education Fairness Formula that calls for every Garden State school district to receive state aid amounting to exactly $6,599 per student, Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday visited this Monmouth County township to discuss the plan with residents.
Christie repeated much of what he said last week on New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor" program.
Some Democratic leaders have strongly criticized the governor's plan for being extremely unfair to poorer minority districts, but many lawmakers have not publicly discussed the idea yet.
Christie reviewed the state Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s and '80s that directed the state to give billions of additional dollars to 31 poor school districts in New Jersey in order to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to the students in what would come to be known as the Abbott districts, after the Abbott v. Burke case.
Christie then said the theory of the Supreme Court was “once we fund them like suburban districts, they will perform like suburban districts. Well, how’s that worked out? Not well, right?”
He then talked about how most districts spend a majority of the property tax money they collect on education, but in the Abbott districts only 26 percent on average is spent for education because they get so much money for schools from the state.
Christie pointed out that even with billions of additional funding in these poor districts, graduation rates are much lower than in most suburban schools, and most of the kids that do graduate still need remediation before they’re ever able to attend even community college.
“They’re getting less and less result,” he said. “We’ve been doing the same thing for 30 years, we’re getting the exact same result but we think 'Oh, next year, if we just do it again, next year it will get better.' Let me guarantee you something: It won’t get better.”
He said the Abbott rulings was designed to raise up schools in the poorest districts but it hasn’t worked at all.
“Seven lawyers in black robes had no business making that decision. What the hell do they know about how this is supposed to work?” he wondered out loud. “ Absolutely nothing.”
Christie stressed throwing money at the Abbott districts is not the answer.
“We need to force these districts now to stop leaning on the idea that if we spend more money we’ll get better results,” he said
Christie added all children should be cherished in New Jersey.
“They all have potential to contribute to our state and we should fund them equally, that’s why I call it the Fairness Formula. In the end, it’s a formula that says every child has value, every child deserves to be supported by the taxpayers of this state,” he said. “Will there need to be a phase-in period for this because some districts will lose money? Well for those we’ve got to phase it in, that’s fair. We’re not going to do it overnight. But we’ve got to get them moving in that direction, because they have to stop focusing on how much they get and start focusing on what they produce.”
“We know that people are being driven out of this state because of high property taxes, and we also know children across this state, especially in those 31 districts, are being driven from a productive, happy, successful future by a failed education system," Christie said. "Neither one of those things are acceptable to me.”
Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com