In today's Record, Charles Stile reflects on Gov. Christie's proposal to place a referendum on the 2017 November ballot to amend the New Jersey Constitution's mandate to provide a "thorough and efficient" education for every student to a new clause that would mandate equal funding for every student. Christie's banking that he can resuscitate his subterranean approval ratings by pandering to suburban voters' discontent with high property taxes that pay for local schools.
For example, Mendham Public Schools, Christie home district, has a median housing price of $592,000 and a median household income of $158,750. The average annual property tax bill in Mendham is $18,040, with between 50%-60% of that going to the district, which has one middle school and one elementary school. The students are almost all white. One percent of the student body is English Language Learners and 0% are economically-disadvantaged. . Mendham Public Schools annual operating budget is $16,216,033 for its 709 students, with an average cost per pupil of $19,600. State aid is $430,042.
Under Christie's proposal, under which the state would send a flat rate of $6,599 to each student regardless of economic status, Mendham Public Schools' state aid would increase by 1335%.
In comparison, Camden's state aid would decrease by 78% and Newark's by 69%.
Here's Stile's take:
Christie’s plan also reflects another striking change. As he ramped up plans for a presidential run, Christie fashioned himself as the champion of progressive urban education reform. He virtually camped out in Camden, touting reforms and determined to prove that he was a compassionate conservative, one who could care about underprivileged, minority children in failed urban schools. He wanted to prove that Big Tent Republicanism could win in a November contest against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Christie is now Trump’s lieutenant and working for a candidate who captured the nomination by tapping white voter anger at government spending, Latinos, and the perceived decline in American prestige. Christie’s education funding plan also taps white suburban disgust and frustration with the cities.
Christie now argues that the cities have been operating on “autopilot” expecting a generous state subsidy each year. Now they could have to survive with far less, including his favored Camden. Under his plan, Camden would face a 78 percent cut in school aid.
That will be a steep price for the one of the nation’s poorest cities. It also is a price Christie appears willing to pay for his own legacy.