NJ Surplus Drill-down Redux

Posted on February 17, 2010

This is a quick reply to NJ Left Behind’s highly suspect if not outright bogus NJ Surplus Drill-down. The crux of my response to NJ Left Behind’s summary of NJ school district surpluses, is that his/her analysis completely distorts the distribution of school district surpluses by not taking into account district size (enrollment). Of course the larger districts on average have larger surpluses. And Abbott districts on average are larger. Now, this is not uniformly the case, but for the most part, the largest surpluses are in larger districts (indeed there are some large districts with no surplus and some smaller districts with large surpluses).

The more appropriate way to look at these numbers is in per pupil terms. First, here are the per pupil Total Surpluses by district factor group and by Abbott status:

Interestingly, relative to districts in the same factor group (wealth-income category), Abbott districts seem to be carrying somewhat smaller per pupil surpluses. Further, total surpluses per pupil in Abbott districts on average are lower than surpluses in DFG J districts.

Here is the proposed state aid withholding (in other words, proposed CUTS) by district factor group and Abbott status:

Note in this case that state aid withholding is systematically higher in poorer district factor groups, though lower in Abbott districts relative to others in their factor group.

Finally, here is the withholding as a share of total surpluses:

So, the bottom line here is that the poorest Abbott districts are in fact taking the biggest hit in terms of the share of total surpluses that will be withheld from state aid. A somewhat different story from the deceptively oversimplified NJ Left Behind post.

Posted in: Jersey