They need to get realistic that change is coming
—Chris Christie, of the NJ Educational Association, and his general attitude toward unions of government employees
You can’t just terminate a contract unilaterally. These are just recommendations. These aren’t on tablets coming down from the mountaintop.
In 1976 the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that school district funding based on property taxes disadvantaged poor districts. The court ordered the state to raise supplemental revenues and provide “indirect property tax relief” to poorer districts. The decision spawned New Jersey’s income tax. Today, 78% of the fund supports 605 school districts, 31 court-designated low-income “Abbot districts” account for nearly half of these dollars. New Jersey’s 566 municipal governments receive 6%, and the remaining 15% is shared through homeowner rebates, such as the homestead act. Eileen Norcross notes the abysmal results of the system:
The fund has failed on all counts. Property taxes have risen every year since 1978. Homeowner rebates, averaging less than $1000 when distributed, do little to dull property tax pain. And in the meantime, the court has continued to monitor the Abbott districts, often with disastrous results. For example, a decision requiring poor school districts to spend as much per pupil as the wealthiest school district has transformed New Jersey’s income tax into an eight-bracket beast with a top rate of 10.75 percent on those earning over a million dollars a year.
In spite of this massive transfer of resources to poor districts, however, outcomes remain abysmal. Since 1998, Camden has received $2.8 billion for its schools and has spent close to $24,000 per pupil. Yet last year, just 18 percent of Camden’s 8th graders scored proficient in math. By contrast, Woodbridge Township has received $169 million in school aid over the period, spending a little more than $10,000 per pupil. Nearly 75 percent of Woodbridge’s middle school students met or exceeded proficiency in math.