Fixing Education First
Eileen Norcross has an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press arguing that Governor-elect Christie must deal with New Jersey’s education system before it will be possible to deal with the budget deficit, property taxes, income taxes, and outmigration:
School funding is a mess not because of decisions by the Legislature, but edicts from the state’s Supreme Court. For more than 30 years, the courts have controlled the schools through the Abbott decisions (which number 20 separate rulings over 24 years).
To wit, 31 court-designated Abbott districts must spend the same amount per student as the highest-spending district in the state. While other state courts have ruled on state funding formulas for education, none have effectively taken over the Legislature’s policymaking functions as the New Jersey courts have.
Regardless of what type of reforms Christie and the Legislature choose to undertake, one thing is certain: Without reforming education, New Jersey will continue to raise taxes and engage in reckless fiscal gimmickry that would make an Enron accountant blush.
The citizens of New Jersey know that something is deeply wrong. An increasing number of New Jerseyans are leaving the state for lower-tax pastures. Rutgers University economists Joseph Seneca and James Hughes have found some 377,000 people left New Jersey between 2000 and 2006 alone — the combined populations of Newark and Woodbridge. With the worst tax climate of all the 50 states, according to the Tax Foundation, New Jersey is paying a great deal and getting little in return. [NB: Links added in this post.]