Home » 2016

Yearly Archives: 2016

On the Relative Efficiency of New Jersey Public School Districts

PDF of Brief: Baker.Weber.NJEfficiency_8_2_16

Bruce D. Baker

Mark Weber

Contrary to current political rhetoric, New Jersey’s least efficient producers of student achievement gains are not the state’s large former Abbott districts – largely poor urban districts that benefited most in terms of state aid increases resulting from decades of litigation over school funding equity and adequacy. While some Abbott districts such as Asbury Park and Hoboken rate poorly on estimates of relative efficiency, other relatively inefficient local public school districts include some of the state’s most affluent suburban districts and small, segregated shore towns. And yet these districts will be, in effect, rewarded under Governor Chris Christie’s “Fairness Formula,”[1] even as equally inefficient but property-poor districts will lose state aid.

Findings herein are consistent with previous findings in cost-efficiency literature and analyses specific to New Jersey:

  • There exists some margin of additional inefficiency associated with Abbott status relative to non-Abbott districts in the same district factor group, but the margin of additional inefficiency in the poorest DFG is relatively small.
  • The state’s most affluent suburban districts – those with the greatest local fiscal capacity and currently lower overall tax effort – tend to have equal degrees of inefficiency as compared to less-affluent Abbott and non-Abbott districts.
  • Districts in factor group I (the second highest category of socio-economic status) have the largest ratio of students enrolled in inefficient relative to efficient districts.

Coupling these findings with those of similar studies in New Jersey and elsewhere, it makes little sense from an “efficiency” standpoint alone to re-allocate resources from high-need, low-income, urban districts to affluent suburban districts for the primary purpose of tax relief. This policy proposal is based on the false assumption that the poor urban districts are substantively less efficient than affluent suburban districts to begin with, and ignores that providing such increases in aid to affluent suburban districts tends to stimulate even greater inefficiency.

Put bluntly, the Governor’s proposal not only fails on a) tax equity and b) student funding equity, as previously explained by Weber and Srikanth, but the “Fairness Formula” proposal also fails on the more conservative economic argument of “efficient” allocation of taxpayer dollars.

[1] http://www.nj.gov/governor/taxrelief/pages/formula.shtml

How Fair is the “Fairness Formula” for New Jersey School Children & Taxpayers?

Mark Weber, PhD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

Ajay Srikanth, PhD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

PDF Policy Brief: Weber.Srikanth.FairnessFormula.June_30

Executive Summary

This brief provides a first look at the “Fairness Formula,” Chris Christie’s school tax reform plan. In this analysis, we show:

  • The “Fairness Formula” will greatly reward the most-affluent districts, which are already paying the lowest school tax rates as measured by percentage of income.
  • The “Fairness Formula” will force the least-affluent districts to slash their school budgets, severely increase local property taxes, or both.
  • The premise of the “Fairness Formula” – that the schools enrolling New Jersey’s at-risk students have “failed” during the period of substantial school reform – is contradicted by a large body of evidence.

The “Fairness Formula,” then, would transform New Jersey’s school funding system from a national model of equity[1] into one of the least equitable in the country, both in terms of education and taxation. This proposal is so radical and so contradicted by both the evidence and economic theory that even the harshest critics of school funding reform cannot support it.

[1] See: http://www.schoolfundingfairness.org

“Beating the Odds”: A Comparison of the Demographics and Performance of Charter Schools to District Schools in Jersey City

Ajay Srikanth, PhD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

Bruce Henecker, EdD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

February 5, 2016

Note: All opinions here are those of the authors and do not reflect those of their employers, the NJEA, Rutgers GSE, or their professors and advisors there.

PDF Policy Brief: Srikanth_Henecker.JC.Feb5_2016

Executive Summary

On May 13, 2015, the Jersey City Council passed a resolution urging the Governor and State Legislator to provide equitable funding for the charter schools in Jersey City. The council argues that the charters in Jersey City are some of the highest performing schools in the city and also serve demographically-similar students. Both of these assertions are inaccurate. On average, charter schools serve significantly lower percentages of students eligible for Free Lunch, lower percentages of Special Education students, and substantially lower percentages of English Language Learners. With respect to student achievement, charter schools do not outperform district schools in Language Arts or Math once you control for demographics.

In response to the council’s resolution, we propose the following:

  1. Recommend to the Jersey City Council that they pass a resolution requiring that charter schools operating in Jersey City hold weighted lotteries that increase the rate of students receiving free lunch, students who receive special education services, and students classified as Limited English Proficient (based on a recommendation stated in Weber and Rubin, 2015).
  1. Recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education develop an enhanced charter funding formula that takes into account the increased cost of educating students across the range of Special Education classifications so

that charters receive a reimbursement rate commensurate with type of special education students they serve.

  1. Recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education develop an enhanced charter funding formula that reduces the base-funding amounts charter schools receive if they do not accept English Language Learners at a rate consistent with that of the host district.
  1. Recommend that policymakers account for demographic differences when comparing school performance within and across sectors- district vs. charter.