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Monday, January 7, 2008

Time for a new system

With Gov. Corzine's new school funding formula up for debate today in Trenton, scores of advocates for urban school districts that stand to lose their preferred funding status under the new plan saw fit to picket the state house, voicing their concerns over what the new plan could mean for the state's poorer districts.

And while the shift away from years of sending the majority of state aid to the state's poorer "Abbott" districts could mean problems for districts like that of Trenton, the new funding plan only serves to equalize what had become an increasingly unfair and outdated system that showed little results.

Following the Abbott vs. Burke decisions and the suspension of the state's funding formula in 2002, state aid was channeled mostly to urban districts, while other districts saw flat funding based on old demographic data that increasingly diverged with reality.

But during all those years of financial bounty for New Jersey's 31 poor school districts, little progress was made in the plight of the state's urban students, while more and more complicated financial nightmares were created for the rest of the state's districts.

The new funding formula could be better than the old system, in that at least it represents a change from a system that was surely broken and only served to wreak more havoc on the majority of New Jersey's overburdened taxpayers.

Channeling billions of dollars into urban school districts is obviously not the solution, and now perhaps the state can move on to trying to solve the larger social ills that are the real cause of failing urban schools, which fall victim to social problems that require around-the-clock, dedicated treatment.

These most complicated of problems simply cannot be cured by dollars that are applied only to the 35 hours a week while the child is in a classroom.

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