TRENTON – Noting the learning losses and mental health setbacks endured by students in the two-plus years of the pandemic, some legislators say they’re concerned New Jersey schools aren’t spending their federal recovery funds fast enough.

Public schools have spent around $550 million out of their $3.9 billion – though have until September 2024 and have approved plans for at least the first two batches of money out of three. On top of that, the state still has $349 million of its $403 million for K-12 education programs available.

Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan told the Assembly Budget Committee that 85% of the first and smallest tranche of funds has been spent. The funding allotments to New Jersey through ESSER, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, have included $310 million expiring this Sept. 30, $1.23 billion expiring in 2023 and $2.77 billion that runs out in 2024.

“We believe that between now and September of 2022, the remaining 15% will be expended and we will not return any of the funding,” Allen-McMillan said.

Districts have spent 29% of their second batch of funds and 1% of their third, as of last month. Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, who chairs the budget committee, said lawmakers are “a little bit taken aback” by the pace.

“Specifically for my district, I’m going to be quite honest with you, my kids can’t keep waiting because my gap already existed here previously to COVID,” Pintor Marin said. “So, how much longer are my kids going to keep waiting?”

Pintor Marin said there seems to be a miscommunication about spending the funds and that maybe the state needs to push districts to draw down the money faster by saying: “Hey everyone, our kids are already behind in math, right, for whatever it is, half a year or whatever. At what point do we keep waiting so that that gap is larger and longer?”

Department of Education officials said the system for approving spending is the same as for all federal grants and that any apparent delay is just a reflection of how the accounting process works.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin Dehmer, the NJDOE’s chief financial officer, said districts have approved plans for how they will use at least their first two batches of funds and in some places all three.

“They don’t get all of the money at once. They get it as they spend it,” Dehmer said. “So, every month we’re drawing down on those because they’re spending money executing those plans.”

“Also, when they submit for reimbursement, we don’t just cut the check,” Allen-McMillan said. “We look at the program because they have to submit evidence. It’s not just: Oh, here, I hired a consultant. Well, did it accomplish what you stated you were going to accomplish?”

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Despite the responses, Pintor Marin said students have immediate needs that require a more urgent response.

“I don’t know at this point who to criticize – is it the districts, is it the department, who it is?” she said. “But I don’t know how long it’s going to take for all of this to be submitted, to be drawn down, all of that. I understand. But the problem is our kids can’t keep waiting.”

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New Jersey high school graduation rates

The lists below show 4-year graduation rates for New Jersey public schools for the 2020-21 school year. The statewide graduation rate fell slightly, from 91% in 2019-20 to 90.6%.

The lists, which are sorted by county and include a separate list for charter schools, also include a second graduation rate, which excludes students whose special education IEPs allow them to qualify for diplomas despite not meeting typical coursework and attendance requirements.

Columns with an asterisk or 'N' indicate there was no data or it was suppressed to protect student privacy.

Average SAT scores for all NJ high schools, 2020-21

Average SAT scores for the 2020-2021 school year are listed by county, from highest to lowest. Data includes the combined score, as well as the average scores on the math and reading/writing sections.

Participation rates show the share of 12th graders in the Class of 2021 who took the SAT in 2020-21 or in prior years.

High schools aren't listed if there is no data or the number of students participating was low enough that average scores were not publicly reported to protect student privacy.

School aid for all New Jersey districts for 2022-23

The state Department of Education announced district-level school aid figures for the 2022-23 school year on Thursday, March 10, 2022. They're listed below, alphabetically by county. For additional details from the NJDOE, including specific categories of aid, click here.

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