OLS analysis: If state adhered to schools funding reform act, smaller percentage would go to Abbott districts

TRENTON – If the amount of state aid given to public schools was in lockstep with the “School Funding Reform Act” formula that was passed in 2008, a smaller percentage of funds would go toward the former Abbott school districts, according to an analysis by the state Office of Legislative Services.

The state has budgeted $7.068 billion in school aid for fiscal year 2012, which falls short of the $8.805 billion that would have to be appropriated if the state followed the SFRA formula. However, if it did provide the additional $1.737 billion, the OLS analysis shows that public school districts other than those that are considered the poorest would benefit.

“The majority of additional funding associated with providing state aid pursuant to the SFRA would be awarded to districts that were not classified as Abbott districts,” according to an OLS “background paper.” “More than 70 percent of the additional funding, $1.238 billion, would be awarded to such districts.”

Specifically, 71.3 percent of the $1.737 billion would go to other districts, while only 28.7 percent would go to the former Abbott districts.

However, since only $7 billion of the $8.8 billion is planned to be appropriated by the state for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the former Abbott school districts are still getting a larger portion of state aid (56.4 percent), than if the school formula was fully funded (50.9 percent).

But full funding would still mean more doallrs in the coffers of the Abbotts as those districts would receive $4.48 billion, versus $3.98 billion under the current funding schedule.

Some of the wealthiest districts would see their state aid double, if not grow much larger than that, the OLS analysis shows. For example, the wealthiest school districts, labeled  District Factor Group J districts, would see their share of state aid increase by 662.2 percent.

District Factor Group is a socioeconomic  designation assigned to school districts, ranging between the letters A through J. District Factor Group A schools (former Abbott schools) are the poorest and District Factor Group J districts are the wealthiest.

Many of the wealthiest school districts, including Gov. Chris Christie’s hometown of Mendham Township, lost virtually all of their state aid last year.

The issue of funding the so-called Abbott districts has become a key element in the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year after the appellate court special master decided last month that the Christie administration had underfunded them.

Parties in the ongoing case have filed responses to that decision, and oral arguments will be held as well.

Lawmakers have been asking questions in budget hearings about the possible impact of the ruling farther down the road.

OLS analysis: If state adhered to schools funding reform act, smaller percentage would go to Abbott districts