An education funding plan that sounds fair on the surface has been met with strong opposition.
However, state Democrats and education advocacy groups are pushing back. They argue that Mr. Christie’s plan would harm disadvantaged urban students.
The governor wants to push through a constitutional amendment before he leaves office that would, in effect, nullify a state Supreme Court order to give poor cities enough funding to ensure every child receives a quality education.
Under the court order, low-income communities currently receive more school aid than wealthier suburban schools. Christie called it “absurd” that the current funding system sends $5.1 billion to 31 urban districts and $4 billion to the other 546 districts, the WSJ reported.
The governor said the current system unfairly imposes higher taxes on many residents. At the same time, that funding approach has largely failed to improve graduation rates and test scores among the mostly Black and Latino students in the state’s low-income school districts.
“That is an unacceptable, immoral waste of the hard-earned money of the people of New Jersey,” said Christie, a Republican. He added that his plan would lower property taxes for scores of state residents.
However, Democratic lawmakers, New Jersey’s teachers union, and many education advocates have denounced the governor’s proposal, NJ.com reported.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said Christie’s plan is “unconstitutional and harmful to our most vulnerable children,” according to the news outlet.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the chair of the Senate Education Committee, issued a joint statement about the proposal, via NJ.com:
“This plan is unfair, it is unjust and it is blatantly unconstitutional. It is a maneuver that discriminates against the most vulnerable students and would systematically deny children an equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center who was involved in litigating the court order, told NJ.com that Christie’s plan conflicts with a state consensus that funding levels should be based on student needs.
“If this plan were implemented it would devastate our schools by removing an unprecedented level of educational resources,” he added.
A spokesman for Christie denied the proposal is politically motivated. Some critics have said the governor is trying to deflect attention from his George Washington Bridge scandal, in the hopes of landing a high-level post in a possible Donald Trump administration.
Christie plans to send his proposal to the legislature with the aim of getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for 2017.