State report details child education cost

State report details child education cost
Wednesday, December 13, 2006  NHS

A new state report has laid out in intricate detail how much it should cost to educate a child in New Jersey, from the price of the average teacher to that of textbooks and supplies.

The 98-page report released yesterday is at the center of Gov. Jon Corzine's plan to revamp the state's school funding formula to better match the needs of individual students, as opposed to those of districts as a whole.

Using data from 2004-05, the report set a total base per-pupil amount of $7,367 for K-8 districts and $8,496 in K-12 district.

It then added thousands more for children with disabilities, from impoverished homes, and with limited English skills. For instance, a child with severe disabilities would cost up to seven times above the base, or nearly $60,000 in a K-12 district. Children of poverty cost about 50 percent more, or almost $13,000.

But with an approach that has been widely contested already, the big question remains how much the state and local districts would pay to meet the costs, a critical point in Corzine's and the Legislature's ongoing talks to bring down New Jersey's record property taxes.

The state's proposed school aid formula is not expected until after the new year, officials said. The new formula will require the Legislature's approval, as well as that of the state Supreme Court, if challenged.

In the meantime, the Corzine administration is promoting its approach and has scheduled a series of public hearings for next Monday, including at Kean University at 3:45 and 7 p.m.

"This is just the beginning of the process designed to enhance understanding of the department's work on a new school funding formula, and we are seeking as much public input as possible," said state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy in announcing the hearings.

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