It is the Department’s hope that in considering changes to the SFRA funding formula, the Legislature will also address some of the Education Funding Report’s recommendations. Three in particular are worth highlighting. First, notwithstanding the change to the State’s tenure law, where budget or other constraints require school districts to lay off teachers, state law forces them to do so based on seniority, not classroom effectiveness. The result is a system that prizes longevity over student outcomes. Such a system is tragically unfair to disadvantaged children and cannot be permitted to continue.
The other two recommendations Cerf refers to are creating incentives for school reform ("In fact, historically, the worse a school district was performing, the more state aid it received") and phasing out "adjustment aid," which was intended to protect districts as the state transitioned from the old funding formula (Abbott-driven) to the new one, the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA). From Cerf's report:
The result is that, still today, a number of districts, including Camden and Atlantic City, receive windfalls in excess of adequacy and without any connection to educational needs. For example, although “fully-funded” under the funding formula, Camden received $47.6 million in Adjustment Aid in FY2013, while Atlantic City received more than $8 million in Adjustment Aid despite spending above adequacy. The Education Funding Report recommended a five-year phase out of Adjustment Aid between FY2013 and FY2017 – limited to districts that are funded above “adequacy.” I encourage the Legislature to fully endorse the phase-out of Adjustment Aid through a statutory change to the SFRA.