Cerf, Sarlo spar over school funding formula

TRENTON – Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said today during a budget committee hearing the current school funding formula needs to be changed in order to made it more effective, adding that officials must get “out of the box” where too much focus is on the amount of money.

The Christie Administration has proposed for fiscal year 2013 $7.82 billion in grades K-12 direct aid for the public school districts, an increase from the prior year. 

The Education Department is proposing over a five-year period phasing out 50 percent of adjustment aid and implementing policy changes concerning how student attendance is measured.

But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, (D-36), of Wood-Ridge questioned whether it was a good idea to “modify” that current school funding formula that’s been found constitutional by the Supreme Court.

“Do you think it’s prudent to begin tinkering (with the school funding formula)?” Sarlo asked.

Cerf said he finds the current formula “unfair” and “ill-served,” saying it places way too much emphasis on funding, and not on policies or on how effectively the funds the districts receive are being spent.

“It’s a combination of policy and funding,” Cerf said, adding that schools need to prepare students well for jobs and careers. “(It’s) how we spend the money that matters.”

“Are we doing what we can to close the gap (between school performance and rich and poor districts),” Cerf added. “I don’t think we’re doing that.”

Cerf, Sarlo spar over school funding formula