Special Education Funding & Wage Differentials under New Jersey’s SFRA

Posted on April 28, 2009



As the hour of oral arguments in Abbott v. Burke approaches, I suspect there will be some debate as to whether specific elements of the state’s new school finance formula SFRA are, in fact, appropriate. Two components of SFRA that concerned me long before I participated at trial on behalf of plaintiffs were the adjustment created to accomodate  wage variation across New Jersey school districts, and the flat funding – census based approach – used for special education. Quite simply, both are bad policy and are particularly damaging to the state’s highest need children who are clustered in certain school districts – primarily Abbott districts. I will not further editorialize on this point here. But I will post links below to two academic papers on these specific topics which I have presented in recent years.

The first paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in the Spring of 2008 and involves analysis of wage adjustments in several state school finance formulas, concluding that statistically, New Jersey’s new GCA is among the worst (a finding I did not expect at the outset of the study).

Link to Wage Paper

The second paper, for which an abstract was submitted in Summer 2008, was presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, and explores the assumption that children with disabilities are evenly distributed. The paper further explores the equity consequences of distributing funding on this assumption if false.

Link to Special Education Paper

I welcome legitimate critiques of the statistical analyses and policy conclusions in either paper.

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