Corzine signs school funding scheme

Gov. Jon S. Corzine today signed legislation that officially implements a new school funding formula for New Jersey school districts, after the plan was passed in the waning hours of the lame-duck legislature.

The new formula means that many middle-income districts that saw little or no state aid increases over the past few years shpuld now receive a hefty increase in money.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, poor, urban Abbott districts will see a small increase in aid, followed by years of flat funding under the plan.

Trenton fits into this category, with Superintendent Rodney Lofton already having predicted program cuts and belt-tightening in the wake of the new formula and its effects on the millions of state dollars that have been pouring into the district in recent years.

Urban district advocates have cried foul over the plan and its perceived effects on soon-to-be underfunded Abbott districts, but many officials have interpreted the new plan as recognition that the abundant Abbott funding of the past had little or no effect on the plight of urban students.

A state education official in the Times of Trenton recently pointed to the dismal test scores of the older students in many urban districts, which have remained low throughout the period of heavy state funding.

Urban district proponents have frequently pointed to an upswing in the grades of fourth grade test-takers, he said, but those advances in test scores seem to disappear once the same students reach the more senior levels of public schooling.

It seems to be true that poverty and social ills overwhelm any gains made by overfunding schools where students spend little of their overall daily time.

If that’s the case, the state aid dollars should go to redeveloping blighted urban areas in New Jersey, with an eye to ending the social and economic chaos that seems to doom many of the students in Trenton and other New Jersey cities.

The new formula still needs approval from the New Jersey Supreme Court, who will have to decide whether the new plan ensures the thorough and efficient education required by the state constitution.

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