Unlike some areas, Hoboken may actually stand to gain state aid because of the change.
Last week, officials said they believe that the governor's new plan will take the number of needy students in a district into account, rather than basing certain types of state aid on the financial circumstances of the entire city.
Hoboken is a wealthy city with many high-earning residents. However, the public schools also include many needy students from the poorer areas of town.
The Hoboken schools have approximately 77 percent of their students at or below the poverty level, said Schools Superintendent Jack Raslowsky.
While the district does get some types of special urban funding through the state's "Abbott" program, it misses out on a type of "parity" funds because the city of Hoboken has so many people with high incomes.
The hope is that if the redistribution of funding occurs on an individual student basis, Hoboken will get additional funding.
Corzine, during his address to the League of Municipalities at their convention last month, said, "Within the next few weeks, the Department of Education will present a school funding formula to the legislature for their consideration. The essence of the plan is to allocate dollars by children and their needs, not by geography or zip codes."
Corzine added, "We can't fund children's education like a pork-barrel program. Every child must be given the same opportunity to succeed and the same access to a thorough and efficient education."
Impact on Hoboken
In the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the state allocated $7.3 billion to New Jersey's approximately 593 operating school districts, of which approximately $795 million went to Hudson County. Due to its size and need, Jersey City received the lion's share of the funding, taking in over $428 million. Hoboken received approximately $12.5 million, according to Hoboken School Business Administrator Brian Buckley.
In Hoboken, the district primarily receives funding for its early childhood development program, which to date includes approximately 450 students, 3 to 4 years of age.
When asked how Corzine's revised state aid formula might impact the district, Superintendent Jack Raslowsky was hopeful.
According to Raslowsky, the bulk of Hoboken's school budget, which is $54 million, comes from the local tax levy and not the state, unlike other local districts which depend heavily on "Abbott" funding for subsidizing many of their student programs.
"Abbott" funding is special aid that goes toward 31 urban financially needy school districts in New Jersey. Abbott districts were formed as a result of the state Supreme Court decisions in the 1997 and 1998 Abbott vs. Burke cases. The court's rulings established the rights of children in urban communities to get "a thorough and efficient education" commensurate with suburban districts whose residents can afford to pay high school taxes.
Even though Hoboken qualifies as an Abbott district, it does not get as much aid as some other districts.
Still, in Hoboken High School, 20.5 percent of the students are classified as having some special need. But when factored in with kids in the other schools, the percentage may not be high enough to draw aid for certain types of programs.
Raslowsky said that if the funding is redistributed on an individual student basis, as opposed to a district-wide basis, the Hoboken district might benefit more.
Both Raslowsky and Assemblywoman Joan Quigley noted that before any of Corzine's proposals are enacted, they have to be approved by the State Legislature and the New Jersey State Supreme Court.
According to Quigley, if Corzine receives all the approvals he needs to change the state's school aid formula, "at best, the changes won't be implemented until the 2009 fiscal year budget."
The charter school scenario
New Jersey charter schools represent an interesting aspect of the change.
"Charter schools" are special public schools that were founded by community members and have their own board of trustees. They handle their own curriculum and administrative issues. However, they are funded mostly through the school district's budget.
Currently, they get no "Abbott" funding, according to Jessani Gordon, executive director of the New Jersey Charter School Association.
Hoboken presently has two "charter schools" that were founded by local parents and educators in the mid 1990s.
The state and district are required to provide 90 percent of the district's regular program budget per charter school pupil for that specific grade level. A program budget includes everything from teacher salaries to costs associated with purchasing books and organizing programs.
The amount of money a charter school can put towards each student's education is, however, significantly reduced when factoring in costs associated with facilities, which include maintenance and in many cases rent.
Many charter school administrators are hopeful that their schools will get more aid due to Corzine's changes, because per student, charter school's operate on a fraction of the funding a district has to use toward that same student's education.
"Eighty percent of charter schools are in Abbott districts. We serve the same high-risk population, yet we only receive 60 cents on the dollar for what every Jersey City public school gets," contended Susan Grierson, principal at the Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City. "It's time for a change, and we're hoping that the new school funding formula will take our situation into account."
Hoboken's Elysian Charter School Director Carol Stock was optimistic that the situation might improve under a revised formula.
"Rumors have it that the revision would mean we might get a little more money per student, which is good, but it doesn't help in the long-term financial situation with real estate and expenses going up every year," said Stock. "The real question is, how many more years can charter schools continue without getting money for facilities?"
In order to compensate for the lack of state funding, many charter schools hold fundraisers throughout the year.
Elysian runs auctions, bakes sales and students selling their works of art.
Countywide, some are worried
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Assemblywoman Quigley, who represents New Jersey's 32nd District, said that she believed Corzine's modification of the existing state-aid formula could result in a loss of funding to several Abbott school districts in Hudson County.
"Many of our communities stand to lose a great deal of money if they don't get full Abbott funding," said Quigley. "The latest report shows that [Abbott funded] programs are working. Kids enrolled in Abbott programs have improved immeasurably, and now the state is going to yank that money."
Although the goal of the Abbott program is to act as an equalizer between wealthy and poor school districts, many have criticized the program, saying that it allows wealthy families in an Abbott district to take advantage of the aid, particularly with regards to the free pre-K programs subsidized by the state.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com.