In the proposed state budget he unveiled last month, Gov. Chris Christie slashed $820 million in aid to school districts and urged voters to defeat budgets if teachers in their schools did not agree to one-year wage freezes. The salvo ignited a heated debate with the state’s largest teachers union.
Christie said the cuts were necessary to help plug an $11 billion state budget gap.
In response to the drop in state funding, 80 percent of districts had hoped to raise taxes to prevent layoffs, program cuts or salary freezes. The state teachers union said voters were rejecting property tax increases, not endorsing Christie’s call for salary freezes.
In towns where budgets failed, the local governing body will decide on a school spending plan.
Statewide, school spending increased by $1,0003 per student last year, an average of 8 percent, reports New Jersey’s education department.
Average per child comparative costs in K-12 districts rose to $13,601 during the 2008-09 school year, compared to $12,598 the prior year, and $11,939 in 2006-07.
New Jersey is one of the highest spending states, but the reliance on property taxes means that some districts spend a lot more than others.