Why Did NJ's Cost-Per-Pupil Increase by 7.9% in 2009?

(That’s an average of $1,003 per child.)

1) Last year’s federal stimulus bill included $100 billion for education to mitigate the effects of the recession. This money was intended to last for two years but some states used up all the money this year. The New York Times reports that even though Ed Sec Arne Duncan “repeatedly warned states and districts to avoid spending the money in ways that could lead to dislocations when the gush of federal money came to an end,” some states disregarded that advice. New Jersey is part of that club. The Times piece quotes our very own Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers who predicts that “States are going to face a huge problem because they’ll have to find some way to replace these billions, either with cuts to their K-12 systems or by finding alternative revenues.” Bottom line: we spent more this year because we imprudently allocated federal funds and spent it all in one shot.

2) Teachers’ annual salary increases continued at an unabated 4.5% or so. Some districts reported slightly lower settlements – about a 4.3% range – but not enough to make a difference. Health benefits packages also saw big hikes and 86% of school employees in Jersey make no contributions.

3) Corzine’s School Funding Reform Act did in fact decrease aid to our poorest urban districts but increased aid to middle-wealth communities. There’s more of the latter than the former, so overall spending was up. However, as Dr. Baker points out in the Star-Ledger, the state didn’t fully fund its own formula; if it had, our per pupil costs would be even higher.

Labels: ,