Chris Christie’s Unfair Fairness Formula

​Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and Donald Trump supporter (and possible his VP nominee), proposed an education funding plan that would divert funds from underfunded inner-city public schools to well off public schools.

The plan advocates for equal state funding or a flat rate funding to all students, regardless of the amount of funding the student already receives from local property and income taxes. Under his proposal, each New Jersey student would recieve a flat rate $6,599 from the state; this excludes special education students, who would receive more funds.

What exactly does this mean?

Poor school districts, where parents can only afford to rent property and not own property, will see much needed “extra” state funding removed from their school budgets and sent to districts where spending per student already far exceeds the per student spending in poor districts. I placed the word extra in quotations because even with those state funds, the inner-city schools still can’t provide students with a decent  quality education. Students in these poor districts will see a decrease in the quality of education because districts and schools will be forced to fire teachers, aides and cut back on after school programs, extracurricular activities and classroom resources.

Meanwhile parents in the well off school districts will see a decrease in property taxes (meaning they bring home more money to their families) and an increase in the amount spent per student. A Rutgers University preliminary analysis featured in the New Jersey Education Policy Forum lays out how the already well off schools and families will benefit from this proposal and how the poorest schools will evidently be the losers (This report also disproves Christie’s claim that the 31 poorest schools have not in proved under the current funding plan).

According to Christie, this proposal will help ease taxation on middle and upper class families, while forcing lower class famlies to spend (or not spend) what they simply don’t have. He said that middle and upper class families have been footing the bill for 31 of the state’s poorest schools for years, but to no avail. Christie is essentially saying “now is the time for those middle and upper class families to take their money back and these poor schools, these poor, communities, these poor parents, these poor children will simply need to fend for themselves.” 

According to Christie, for these low-income school districts “Failure is still the rule, not the exception…That is an unacceptable, immoral waste of the hard-earned money of the people of New Jersey.”

This is an attack on the beauracratic public school system. I understand that public schools are entrenched with wasteful policy spending, however, it makes no sense to decrease funding  for these students. The obvious reason is that a decrease in funding will only increase their chances of staying in poverty. The cycle continues. But that’s not governor Christie’s problem or concern. How the hell is this proposal fair when it ensures that students in these low-income schools will make due with inadequate resources?  It makes no sense. 

Summer Learning: Why Aren’t we Outraged About the Summer Slide?

It’s Independence Day weekend, and it’s quite beautiful outside. I’m sitting on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, and I see families playing in the sand, friends riding bikes and couples going for walks. This weekend, for a lot of working adults, comes as a nice and relaxing break. While I have a fun weekend scheduled, I’ll be spending Monday, July 4th, studying for the GRE. Monday night will be spent getting ready for the work week, where I’ll be working on various projects that will require me to both work independently and with colleagues. I’ll have to work through a to-do list and manage and complete unexpected projects. At any given point, I’ll be doing a combination of any of the following:

  • reading
  • writing
  • editing or
  • thinking of and suggesting solutions

 Effective employees across the world will be using similar skills, inadditon to a few others. Many young students, however, will have a two month long summer break where they won’t engage in various educational and social activites that will excercise their brains.
We know that students, especially low-income students (particularly those living in suburban or rural areas), forget what they learned the previous year. 

…how can a system that claims to educate kids claim that students are learning when we don’t try to create an environment in which learning is continuous?

I don’t mean that summer should be an extension of the school year, where you have children sitting in a classroom most of the day. The summer season is a great time for both teachers and students to enjoy the outdoors. Students should be taking class trips to museums and reading books outside. They should be engaging in discussions on current events, where they first read about an event and discuss their opinion–  whatever that may be– with a group of peers at a picnic.

Sadly, we’ve conditioned our students and families to believe that education is to be paused, for the most part, during the summer vacation. For a lot of low-income families, this is more of a default, mostly because lack of funds and vision of how to incorporate educational aspects in everyday life.

Who’s Responsible?

Should school districts continue to provide students with an enriching summer educational experience? Afterall, it’s the teachers who  have to work that much harder in the Fall to reteach content already taught the previous year

Should the parents, financially disadvantage as they may be, find a way to provide their own children with a vibrant and varied experince that will keep their young minds active and academically and socially up to speed?

Or, should some other third party, such as a children or educational non-profit organization or youth center take on this challenge?

It’s expensive to keep a school open during the school year. It’s even more so during the summer months, because the cost to maintain a minimum level of saftey for a small number of students is far too high. Youth centers, and especially parents, are available year-long (presumably). One would think that this would route would make more sense. While I think it does, non-profit organizaions and low-income parents have the same issues schools have: lack of money.

So who should step in and prevent the summer slide? I think the best answer would be a combinantion of all three sources, with parents leading the pact.

The Funding Issue 

So, of course, the next big question is how does this get funded? 

We know that this is an issue that doesn’t just impact student’s in a particular city of state. We know that millions of students in communities across the country come back to school less knowledgable and focused than before  they left school for the summer break. But as a country, we choose to ignore this problem. We continue to unfairly evaluate teachers based on students’ test scores, which attempts to gage how much a student has learned from content that ws covered rgar school year. We don’t take into consideration the time teachers spend at the begining of the year trying to catch students up to speed. 

Even more troubling is that the summer slide points to something that is even more troubling. It shows that students can pass test at the end of the year but not make any real use for them, so as along as students can continue passing a few exams, they cen get away with not retaining realinformation. The system as a whole seems to be ineffective and we need government support behind a real solution, if we want our students to truly learn.

I’m always troubled by the proverb “It takes a s village to raise a child.” Everyone seems to agree with this, but we won’t admit that we’re doing teachers and students a cruel injustice when we leave them alone for the summer with to real guidance as to how they can become multifacted learners, outside of the classroom environment.