School aid numbers tick upward in UC

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Several Union County cities will noticeably benefit from the New Jersey Department of Education’s proposed state aid numbers for the 2016-17 school year, although the amount being granted in Elizabeth — where the brunt of state aid in the county goes — and elsewhere in New Jersey is staying relatively flat, year-to-year.

There are 14 subcategories which make up state aid, including standbys such as equilization, transportation, special needs and security aid. A pair of these subcategories are new for the 2016-17 school year, though. There’s professional learning community aid, created to help districts analyze student and teacher data, and host district support aid, which goes to districts that have a high rate of transfers to charter schools.

In Union County, Plainfield will benefit the most from these two additions. For the 2016-17 school year, the Department of Education is granting Plainfield a projected $1.71 million in host district support aid as part of a $124 million package, the 12th largest amount of state aid going to any district in New Jersey. Elizabeth is fifth on that list.

Union County towns are generally exempt from major shifts in the projected state aid they’ll receive, though. This is also true for most municipalities in New Jersey, with only three of the state’s 585 municipalities expected to receive an increase of 6 percent or more. The median increase, for New Jersey districts, is projected to be about $30,000. In 2013, every school district in New Jersey with at least 400 students paid its teachers of an average of $45,000, according to reports from the time.

As a unit, the 21 municipalities of Union County are projected to receive more than $646 million in state aid for the 2016-17 school year, the fifth largest amount behind Essex, Hudson Passaic and Camden counties, and well above the New Jersey county average of $378 million. That represents an increase of 1.1 percent over the amount of aid given to Union County for the 2015-16 school year, which was estimated at about $640 million, according to data from the Department of Education.
But several towns are pushing the Union County average, in addition to Plainfield, which is receiving an increase of 2.4 percent in state aid, thanks to the addition of host district support aid.

New Providence and Summit are being granted increases of at least 3 percent in state aid, while Clark isn’t far behind, at 2.9 percent. Almost all of the state aid spending in these districts goes to special education aid, which is based on how many students are eligible for special needs programs and classes.

Elizabeth, which receives the brunt of the county’s state aid and the fifth-most of any city in New Jersey, is projected to be given less than the Union County average, receiving more than $366 million in state aid this year, an increase of .7 percent, or $2.6 million. Other municipalities lagging behind the average will be Linden, with a county-low increase of .6 percent; Roselle and Kenilworth, which are proposed .8 percent increases; and Hillside and Union, with .9 percent increases, according to the Department of Education.

The Department of Education’s proposed state aid numbers for the 2016-17 school year, in total, will give $8 billion in direct aid to public schools across the state, including $715 million in Newark, $418 in Jersey City and $399 in Paterson.


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