By Michael Hill
Gov. Chris Christie came to talk school funding in middle class South Plainfield, home to Paul and Flor Carlisle — Democrats — and their 10-year-old son Aidan who attends public school.
“I want to be up front with you. I’ve voted Democrat for a long time,” Paul Carlisle said.
Paul Carlisle said none of that matters and his family’s looking for the “right thing” on how to fund public education.
“Interested in hearing more about this purposeful what the whole plan is and how it lays out. I’m very interested in that,” he said.
The governor explained New Jersey’s dealing with a 30-year-old state Supreme Court ruling to equalize funding in 31 of the state’s 570-plus school districts and it’s put a burden on many towns.
“The state aid that you get here is a fraction of what they get in those 31 districts. So, as a result they’d have to make it up in property taxes. So, if you want to keep a good education, public education in South Plainfield, you want to keep spending at the state average the only way to make that difference up is to raise property taxes,” Christie said.
The governor said South Plainfield spends $17,000 per pupil with a 95 percent graduation rate. Asbury Park spends $33,000 per pupil with a 66 percent graduation rate. He said graduation rates in 27 of the 31 urban districts are below the state average of 90 percent.
“What we are doing is consigning those children to failure factories,” Christie said.
The governor’s plan: to spend an equal amount of state dollars — about $6,600 — on each student in every district. It would cut spending to the urban districts, raise it to the suburban and offer the suburbs tax relief.
“It’s two fold. One, to try to stop paying for failure. And two, lets reward the districts that are doing really well by saying your son’s doing well in the public schools you shouldn’t have to pay as much as you’re paying right now for that education. ” Christie said.
“We both feel you know it sounds like a great idea,” said Paul Carlisle.
Under the governors school funding formula plan the Carlisles say they would save approximately $1,100 a year in property taxes but an equally concerned about what will happen to urban districts through out the state?
“My complete concern is that you have kids who are failing. OK, what are we going to do there?” asked Paul Carlisle.
The governor said making teachers and administrators more accountable and adding more charter schools. Carlisle said he wants to hear from the opponents of the governor’s plan.
“What they’re talking about is completely, completely defunding our urban districts,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“Well it certainly pits winners against losers and the losers happen to be the people that the constitution talks about and that the supreme court spoke about,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
The governor said he wants voters to have their say on equal school funding and whether to make it binding by amending the state constitutional.