By Michael Hill
Gov. Chris Christie was as blunt as ever with his Fair Lawn forum about the property tax burden on the suburbs being used to fund by court order the mostly failing or underperforming 30 Abbott school districts in New Jersey’s urban centers.
“You’re getting shafted,” he said.
The governor compared Fair Lawn to one of his favorite punching bags: Asbury Park where the state spends $29,000 per pupil per year and the graduation rate is 66 percent, way below the state average of more than 90 percent. The state spends $2,900 per pupil in Fair Lawn with a graduation rate of nearly 95 percent.
“Seen all this great liberal, editorial media response to me saying that’s unfair. They say if he takes away aid from the urban districts it’s going to ruin them. Here’s my question: how will they know?” Christie said.
The governor said his Fairness Formula would lower property taxes in many suburbs — by an average of $2,200 in Fair Lawn — and it would give $6,600 to every non-special needs public school student in the state. It would mean slashing aid to the Abbott students over three years and drastically raising it in places like Fair Lawn.
“There’s no other way to do this but to go to full equalized funding for every kid in this state. Because I don’t think that a child in Fair Lawn is any less valuable than a child in Newark,” Christie said.
The governor urged these residents to question their Sen. Bob Gordon about his opposition to the Fairness Formula and if they’re not satisfied with the senator’s response they should vote him out of office.
“Why? Because he is an absolute slave to the teachers union,” Christie said.
Sen. Gordon did not respond to that directly but in a statement said, “The truth is, his funding scheme is unrealistic, divisive and, if it were ever enacted, it would be destructive to education in New Jersey. His proposal offers a false promise because it will never be enacted, and he knows that.”
The governor said of Senate President Steve Sweeney’s plan to have a bipartisan commission come up with a solution: “That’s a plan to do nothing.”
The Senate president said of the governor’s flat funding formula, “When something is too good to be true it normally is.”
Democrats have their own ideas on how to fix school spending in New Jersey and they call the governor’s Fairness Formula a fairy tale formula.