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NJ Schools Still Struggling from Recession: Report [AUDIO]

The Great Recession technically ended years ago, but New Jersey public schools still aren’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, according to an analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

School Teacher
Chris Hondros, Getty Images

The authors of the report, a pair of Federal Reserve economists, indicated that per-pupil funding through 2012 had not yet bounced back to their 2008 levels. Instructional spending, including teacher salaries and classroom supplies, saw the biggest hit, according to the report.

“New Jersey school districts’ funding and expenditures showed sharp cuts after the recession and have not recovered in the years after,” the report stated. “Instead, the gap between the pre-recession trend and the actual reality has grown over time.”

A federal stimulus provided a “stop-gap” for schools across the state, but once those funds were depleted, school districts were again faced with a budget crunch.

“For us to save money, any significant money, we don’t cut chalk and erasers. We’ve got to cut people,” explained John Donahue, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials.

The Federal Reserve report showed a pattern of growth in teachers’ salaries and experience since the recession, suggesting districts laid off their newer employees.

Donahue noted that only so much funding for districts can come from the local level, given New Jersey’s two percent cap on property tax hikes. He said the state has been the reason for insufficient funding.

Gov. Chris Christie’s latest budget allowed for the most aid to education in state history, approaching $9 billion, but Donahue said that isn’t enough.

“In fact, most districts didn’t see a significant increase at all,” he said.

The report noted there has been no clear outcome on student achievement, despite the spending cuts.

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