Opinion: Prioritize Cape May schools in reforming the school funding formula

Written by on May 3, 2021

The views and opinions written in this article are those of the author and do not represent WMSC or Montclair State University. 

Education spending is a large part of state budgets across the country, especially in New Jersey. In 2008 then governor Jon Corzine passed his school funding formula which has many glaring problems that have led to New Jersey having the highest property taxes in the country. One of the biggest problems in the Corzine formula that is rarely spoken about by Republicans in the legislature is the unfair aid and property tax contributions to Cape May county public schools. In their school funding reform agenda often times Republican legislators focus on areas that have seen gentrification such as Jersey City and Hoboken public schools, however, although these areas have seen gentrification they still are within the bottom percentile for test scores and proficiency as well as the fact that even these school districts do not take up as much money in the funding formula as public school districts in Cape May county. Schools in Cape May county receive millions in funding despite having the highest property tax base in all of New Jersey. Cape May county is able to spend almost double per pupil then what most schools in New Jersey spend including those deemed as overfunded by Republicans such as Jersey City and Hoboken. Cape May County is vastly wealthy due to people purchasing summer homes and the many hotels located there. Despite Cape May’s vast wealth, their school districts receive an obscene amount of funding from the state. An example of this is the Avalon borough school district. It is a grade 5 through 8 school district and has an enrollment of 43 students yet due to the increased funding and property tax revenue that Cape May public schools have they spend over $34,000 per pupil witch is substantially more than some of New Jersey’s wealthiest areas such as Montclair which both spend about $17,000 per student. This increased funding to small school districts in Cape May county is causing taxes in New Jersey to increase. Another reason why Cape May public schools are contributing towards the high property taxes in New Jersey is their lack of property tax contributions towards their school funding. While many Republicans will point to Jersey City and Hoboken as not pulling their weight in the Corzine formula, most schools in Cape May county contribute less than ten percent of their property tax revenue towards school funding while the Jersey City school district contributes about 25 percent of their property tax revenue towards school funding. There are a couple solutions to this problem. First we should establish a task force to look into which school districts can be consolidated in a way where students can still receive the best education possible while being fiscally responsible. An example of consolidation, improving the quality of education for students and saving districts money, is the merger of the South Orange and Maplewood public school districts. The Maplewood-South Orange school district is seen as one of the best in New Jersey, according to the US news ranking. Columbia High school in Maplewood ranks 54th out of 612 New Jersey public High schools. We should also reduce funding to school districts with low student body populations and high property tax base such as the Avalon Borough school district. The Corzine formula is unfair, has resulted in the severe underfunding of many schools, and has increased property taxes to the point where residents are fleeing in droves to lower tax states. If we were to take these two measures to reform the way that Cape May public schools are funded we can provide property tax relief to millions of middle class families across the state and we can provide more funding to school districts in working class areas that are underfunded under the cure


Article By Thomas Tarter

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