By Carly Sitrin 08/25/2020 10:16 AM
Gov. Phil Murphy’s revised $32 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 calls for flat funding for New Jersey‘s school districts and public colleges, less money for county colleges and a continuation of the school funding formula reallocation.
According to the administration’s budget documents, total pre-K through grade 12 spending for the next nine months would total just under $14 billion. Combined with the $2.3 billion included in the governor’s three-month budget extension, the total reaches $16.3 billion — the same amount proposed in February before the coronavirus pandemic devastated state revenues.
The revised budget, which Murphy presented to lawmakers Tuesday morning at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway, also includes $10 million to help school districts that don’t have pre-school programs launch them.
Treasury Department officials said the planned reallocation of state aid to school districts would continue according to the planned phase-in of landmark school funding changes under NJ S2 (18R), however. That means some chronically underfunded districts will see increases in their individual state aid allocations while previously overfunded districts will see cuts, even during a pandemic when resources are dire.
Officials also said the nearly $467 million state aid payment for September that had been deferred until October will be paid as planned. No more deferrals are proposed in the revised budget.
Funding to the state’s four-year public colleges and universities is also proposed to remain flat between the nine-month and three-month budgets while county colleges will see a $25 million cut in their state aid.
The state is also relying on previously distributed federal coronavirus relief funds to cover Covid-19 related costs for school districts. According to preliminary budget documents, $100 million will go to the state Department of Education to cover school reopening and remote learning costs and $50 million will go for Murphy’s digital divide initiative announced in July. The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education will get $300 million for a “higher education fund.”
Murphy warned in July that school funding may need to be slashed by $1 billion if the federal government didn’t provide rescue aid in time, but though no new federal aid came through, Murphy’s proposed budget does not include such drastic cuts.