School Spending and Educational Outcomes in New Jersey
Last week, the New York Times reported on fundamental changes occurring to the State of Connecticut's public school financing, in response to a decade long lawsuit claiming that the state's poorest districts were producing poor outcomes. Supported by new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the New York Times concluded: "In the long run, over comparable time frames, states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant."
New Jersey has long been a leader in income-based financing of public schools. The 1985 Abbott v. Burke case ruled that schools in the state's poorest districts were unconstitutionally substandard, followed by the 1990 Abbott II ruling which designated extra funding to schools in the state's 28 poorest districts. In a national ranking of expenditures per student in large districts, the top three highest spending school districts in the entire country were all Abbott Districts in New Jersey (Newark came is first, followed by East Orange and Camden). The Newark Public School District has an expenditure of $30,742 per student with per pupil spending at $23,946, compared to a national average of per pupil spending at $9,562.
While there is no way to know whether Abbott District student assessments would be lower without their additional funding, their current student performance continues to struggle. According to the Newark Board of Education, NJASK testing scores in 2014 reported that 29% of Newark 4th graders were proficient in ELA, and 45% of Newark 4th graders were proficient in Math. This is significantly lower than the state average for 4th graders that year, with proficiency levels at 60% in ELA, and 75% in Math.
Educational equity is at the forefront of human capital development, and will remain a hot topic in discussions surrounding the State of New Jersey, Abbott policies, and the revitalization of the City of Newark. We applaud legislative rulings for more equitable school funding practices, and look forward to new approaches in equitable allotment of school funds to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive high-quality schooling so that they can flourish.