Fine Print: State Auditor Calls Out ‘Convoluted’ Allotting of School Aid

What it is: State Auditor Stephen Eells, whose office is an arm of the state Legislature, yesterday released a report on the distribution of state aid over the last two years under Gov. Chris Christie. The report detailed the levels of state funding to the New Jersey’s 500-plus districts and how they have matched — or not matched — the state’s School Funding Reform Act. The report concluded that although the Christie administration and Legislature had properly followed state budgeting rules, as required, the mandates of the school funding law had not been met.

According to the Eells report, “The SFRA formula aid has not been distributed per statute since fiscal year 2009. … Through fiscal year 2014, the methods followed for the annual calculations blended past and current data from multiple years to determine funding, making the distribution convoluted. During fiscal years 2015 and 2016, no data from either year was applied to the formula to determine funding. Consequently, there were significant differences between actual funding and what the SFRA dictates.”

What it means: The report largely confirms what critics and even the administration have long acknowledged — that the state has underfunded the SFRA formula by nearly $1 billion overall at the most recent count. But it also finds wide disparities of funding, with some districts receiving far more aid than they are entitled to in certain categories.

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