Christie announces sweeping education budget cuts in N.J.
New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie (R) announced a $29.3 billion budget proposal for the state’s upcoming fiscal year on Tuesday, March 16.
Aimed at reducing the state’s $10.7 billion deficit, the proposal reduces funding for public education by $820 million and aid for colleges and universities by $175 million, among other cuts.
Wilson School professor Richard Keevey said that schooling, to which the state budget currently allocates $11.1 billion, represents the “largest single component of the budget.”
“In New Jersey, each school district operates as a separate entity,” Keevey added. “It’s up to local school districts to see how they’ll deal with reductions.”
The cuts will impact all school districts in the greater Princeton area. Princeton Regional School District will see a decrease of about $3.7 million in state aid, West Windsor-Plainsboro School District will lose about $7.6 million in state funding and Montgomery Township School District will lose $3.5 million.
The 2009-10 fiscal year budgets for the Princeton, West-Windsor-Plainsboro and Montgomery school districts were $74.1 million, $151.4 million and $69.5 million, respectively.
To make up for lost aid, districts across the state are discussing property tax increases as well as cuts to staff, programming and student activities.
The state budget cuts will also reduce spending on higher education.
To defray lost funding, affected institutions may increase tuition or encourage senior faculty to retire in favor of junior professors.
Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s 200,000-member teachers’ union, said in a statement that the proposed budget “is a disaster for public school children and for older students who want to further their education beyond high school ... Gov. Christie is slashing education in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.”
Christie’s budget cuts have garnered strong reactions on campus across the political spectrum.
Micah Joselow ’12, co-president of College Democrats, called Christie’s budget cuts “simply unacceptable.”
“Christie’s cuts are taking important aid away from the people of the state of New Jersey when they need it most,” he said in an e-mail. “While in the short-term Christie is attempting to balance the state budget, budget cuts of this type are simply not the answer. From vast reductions in school aid to cuts in unemployment benefits, Christie’s plan will certainly adversely affect the state in the long run.”
But Tiernan Kane ’11, president of College Republicans, commended Christie’s measures to confront the state deficit.
“In closing the budget gap by reducing spending rather than raising taxes, Governor Christie will make New Jersey a more business- and citizen-friendly environment,” he said in an e-mail, adding that while spending cuts will be necessary, the budget proposal will also increase hospital funding, expand the food stamp program and end requirements for Medicaid co-pays.
“In general, his honest, serious governance is a welcome antithesis to the disappointing irresponsibility reigning in Washington right now,” Kane said.
Keevey noted that the state’s economic circumstances necessitated deep cuts in spending.
“The governor’s reductions were made because he had no choice ... even though some of the reductions will create many challenges to constituent groups,” he said. “In good times, such reductions would not normally be made by any governor — but given the circumstances, this action is inevitable.”
In addition to the aid cuts to state education, Christie’s proposed budget also called for reducing aid to municipalities and laying off around 1,300 state employees.