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Some cuts just never heal, apparently.
And that is especially true for school aid funding cuts, based on claims made in a video ad released last week by the New Jersey Education Association.
The ad features Trenton elementary teacher Talithea Briggs, who talks about the impact of state aid cuts during Gov. Chris Christie’s first year in office, as somber music plays in the background.
"Trenton politicians cut $1.3 billion from education," Briggs says, adding that those cuts resulted in larger class sizes, less money for books and materials, and fewer computers for students.
For this claim we’re looking only at how much was cut in state aid – and in this case, the NJEA’s claim is correct.
Let’s begin by looking back at some of the fiscal matters challenging Christie shortly after he took office in January 2010.
Faced with major revenue loss to the state as a result of the recession, Christie began making cuts in several areas of the budget. Education took among the biggest hits. The governor withheld $475 million in state aid that January and then cut another $820 million from the fiscal year 2011 budget. The FY11 plan covered the school year starting in September 2010.
The National Bureau of Economic Research has defined the recession as lasting from December 2007 through June 2009.
Combined, the education cuts totaled just under $1.3 billion.
NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer noted that the $475 million would have paid for things such as new classrooms, vehicles, special education placements and more. The result, he said, was larger class sizes, a loss of education personnel and programs being cut.
And the impact of those cuts are still being felt, he said.
"Districts are going to get squeezed more and more," Wollmer said. "That’s the bottom line."
But Christie had to put more education money in the budget after the state Supreme Court in 2011 ordered him to increase aid to poor school districts by about $500 million the next fiscal year. The order resulted from a lawsuit that claimed the education cuts violated the 2008 School Funding Reform Act, which was a funding formula to support the state’s poorest districts.
Christie maintained that the cuts were necessary to balance the budget, as required by state law.
But New Jersey’s education funding drama didn’t end with the increased aid for poorer districts.
The NJEA’s ad also notes that many of New Jersey’s school districts received a $1 increase in state aid under the current Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Still other districts had aid totals that stayed the same from the year prior.
It's worth noting that as the economy has improved, Christie and the Legislature have put more money in the budget for education.
A recent video ad by the NJEA claims, "Trenton politicians cut $1.3 billion from education."
Christie made two rounds of cuts between the time he took office in January 2010 and in the FY 2011 budget, which was ultimately approved by the state Legislature. The combined cuts totaled just under $1.3 billion.
Although some aid has since been restored, the NJEA claim is correct about the amount of the cuts. We rate the claim True.
To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.
NJEA.org, NJEA: Budget cuts, testing taking a toll, Aug. 20, 2013, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
NJEA.org, "Cuts" video ad, accessed Sept. 3 and 4, 2013
Bloomberg News, New Jersey Supreme Court Orders Christie to Restore Some School Fund Cuts, May 24, 2011, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
Bloomberg News, New Jersey Supreme Court to Rule Today on Christie’s School Funding Cuts, May 24, 2011, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
Bloomberg News, Governor Christie Faces Potential $2.3 Billion Bill for Schools, Tunnel, May 18, 2011, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
PolitiFact New Jersey, Chris Christie implemented merit pay for teachers, best funding ‘ever’ for education, ad claims, May 2013, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
NJ.com, NJ municipalities face $825M in liability for workers’ accumulated sick and vacation days, June 8, 2011, accessed Sept. 4, 2013
E-mail and phone interview with Steve Wollmer, spokesman, New Jersey Education Association, Sept. 6, 2013
National Bureau of Economic Research website, accessed Sept. 6, 2013
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