State aid to Newark schools would increase nearly $ 86 million this week under Governor Phil Murphy’s spending plan – a welcome turnaround for a district that has faced a funding squeeze last year.
Newark’s proposed 10% increase in funding is part of a nearly $ 578 million increase in state aid to K-12 schools that Murphy outlined in his plan for the next fiscal year. The spike in spending that follows flat state aid to schools this fiscal year reflects New Jersey’s surprisingly strong financial position after avoiding the pandemic-induced economic collapse feared by many.
“The budget proposal presented this week supports our commitment to ensure school districts have the resources they need,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting new challenges and costs to the districts has asked.
Murphy’s spending plan, which has to be approved by lawmakers, would leave the Newark school system in far better shape than it was earlier this school year.
Newark lost $ 36 million in state aid last year after Murphy was forced to cancel a planned increase in school funding due to a projected loss of revenue. To balance its budget for that fiscal year, the district had to cut spending by $ 20 million and ask voters to approve a tax increase, which they did.
The proposed increase for the coming fiscal year would raise Newark more than $ 915 million in state aid, which is more than 80% of the district’s budget. That amount is approximately $ 86.7 million more than the district this school year.
Even with the boom, the district would still get less than due on the state aid formula that has not been fully funded for years. Murphy, a Democrat who faces re-election in November, has vowed to increase school spending annually until underfunded counties like Newark get the full amount they’re entitled to.
Newark also received more than $ 19 million in pandemic aid last year that it spent on face masks, air purifiers, laptops, and other COVID-related expenses. It could be more if Congress approves another stimulus package.
Newark school buildings have been closed since last March, even though hundreds of other New Jersey districts have resumed face-to-face learning. Continued distance learning has helped the company’s bottom line by lowering operating costs, officials said.
But just because the district seems to have avoided an economic catastrophe during the pandemic, the officials remain vigilant.
“COVID-19 always presents the unknown,” Elvis Matos, the district’s budget manager, told the school board this week. “We don’t know what to spend money on.”
Lawmakers have until July 1 to approve or amend Murphy’s budget.