Saturday, July 2, 2016

Plainfield and Christie's "Fairness Formula"

When I was just starting to write about Plainfield, much was made of the city's designation as an Abbott district, meaning as a poorer urban district, it would receive greater school aid. Over the past 30 years, the 31 Abbott districts have received about 80 percent of their funding from the state and about 20 percent from local taxes and other sources, while in suburban school districts the ratio is flipped. Gov. Chris Christie has been talking about changing that ratio for several years and has now launched what he calls "The Fairness Formula."

Here is an excerpt:

Between 1985 and the upcoming school year, state taxpayers will have sent $97 billion to the 31 Abbott school districts, compared to $88.2 billion to the remaining 546 districts for PreK-12 education. That’s 52% of total state education dollars going to 5% of districts.

Yet Abbott districts, receiving five times more per pupil than non-Abbott districts, have graduation rates that have been consistently 10 percentage points below the state average, according to the available New Jersey Department of Education data.

Click to see Christie's press release on The Fairness Formula, with links to the website.

At Thursday's school board meeting, board member Richard Wyatt said, "We need to find a way to have a discussion on that."

There are several factors at play in any future change to the state funding formula, but I am among those who have wondered what would happen if the city's "poorer" status changed. The late Mayor Richard L. Taylor, who took credit for getting Plainfield added to the list of Abbott districts, also served as director of two community centers in the city. He used to speak of "the misery index" and made sure to paint a picture of need when benefactors came to visit the centers.

The city still has plenty of challenges, but is seeing much more interest from developers who hope to entice so-called "walking wallet" types to move here. At the same time, the school district has new situations such as hundreds of children who need to become proficient in English to complete their studies. There is a lot to discuss here, including demographics unforeseen in 1985.

Maybe the holiday weekend is not the right time to start a discussion, but it affords time at least to get some background on what Christie proposes and what Plainfield needs going forward.



  1. If Plainfield truly wanted to see money in vs money out they'd request and release the audits conducted by the State under the Corzine administration. The audits they stopped releasing to the public after 3 or 4 showed systematic waste, and were a complete shock at how little regard for money the districts, formerly known as Abbott Districts, had.
    It wasn't their money and they treated it as such.
    People can scream and holler all they want, but there would be much more accountability in both Plainfield's city government and school district if the taxes reflected actually paying for the operation of the school. Plainfield does not pay for 85% of it's school operations, are the taxes 85% lower than neighboring towns/cities ? 75% lower, 50% lower, 25% lower, equal?
    Nope.... higher.
    Purely good money after bad... you don't need to a Democrat or a Republican to see that.

    1. I have to agree with you Abbot Districts They are real money makers for those involved at the top. Staying an Abbot District and many other programs for the poor have always been the reason Plainfield fails to prosper. Free money isen't free, it's a prison that keeps a community poor not only in money but in spirit.
      I hope they pull the Abbott District designations, than the people who keep on telling us the appartments going up everywhere have no impact on our schools. The homeowners can't affort to foot the shortfall and a request to do so would result in a mass exodus, more foreclosures ect.. time to pay the piper for failing our students, our homeowners and our community all along. The result of greed short and simple.

  2. Christie’s proposal will never come to fruition, and he knows it. His goal is to pit suburban vs urban tax payers, which can work to make headlines for him during the national election. He is correct in the waste in the former Abbott districts. I have seen the waste in the PBOE and can only shake my head. Look at the cost per pupil vs the costs in neighboring towns. Yet what do you hear from parents and staff? Lack of textbooks, programs cut, lack of supplies…… This would never be acceptable in the same neighboring districts. Yes urban districts have greater burdens, yet I can attest that the money does not go to lessen the burden. English language learns in classes of 45? The same classes sometimes staffed with non-certifies long term substitutes. Lack of leadership, lack of accountability, and a lack of educational experience by the school administration puts Plainfield in a very precarious situation if the money flow starts to dry up.

  3. I haven't read Christie's remarks in total yet, but from the excerpt I ask is it fair to compare abbott districts to others districts in regard to the state average? wouldn't it make more sense to compare abbott districts' averages then to the districts' own averages now?

    ELL students are also a huge factor. ELL students are enrolling at a pace in which Plainfield is ill-prepared.

    On a sidenote, whenever the topic of Plainfield education in the past 30 years comes up on this blog most of the comments are negative. (Well wait, that goes for the majority of comments.) I entered the school system back in the late 80s. From kindergarten through 12th grade I encountered a number of wonderful educators as well as a few crappy ones. A major difference I personally have noticed from then to now is parental involvement. This could be a whole other essay, but my comment is long enough and I've lost my point.

    Thanks for starting this discussion, Bernice.