About Fair Funding
Cherry Hill School District has been chronically underfunded for decades by state funding formulas that purport to provide adequate and fair funding across the nearly 600 school districts statewide. Each successive reform effort (the most recent in 2008 is SFRA) has attempted unsuccessfully to lower property taxes and provide for constitutionally mandated adequate school aid.
Since 2015, the Fair Funding for Cherry Hill Public Schools committee has worked with the district to address underfunding by the state. Under the current funding formula, Cherry Hill should receive $29 million annually. However, given that the state has never had enough money to fully fund the formula, Cherry Hill has only received approximately half of its mandated amount. As a result, the district has been shortchanged by more than $150 million (in the 12 years of running the formula), an amount it will never recover. Meanwhile, area districts such as Lenape Regional and Washington Township received funds in excess of their formula allotment by tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Progress to reverse this disparity has been made. Committee members have coordinated with district administrators, local government officials, and state representatives to draw awareness to the issue. Members have spoken at rallies in Trenton and at state hearings. Communications with Senate President Sweeney and a presentation to Education Commissioner Repollet have let state officials know that Cherry Hill needs help.
In 2018, legislation was passed to distribute state education funds more equitably. The law (S2) states that over the course of seven years, aid to overfunded school districts will be reduced and aid to underfunded districts will be increased. This means that by the 2024-25 school year Cherry Hill should receive $29.3 million in state aid.
Given the incremental nature of the funding increases, Cherry Hill is seeing gradual results. Funding for school year 2019-20 rose $1.2 million over the previous year’s aid, to $18.4 million. But the districts deemed “overfunded” are fighting back. They are protesting in Trenton and lobbying to get S2 overturned in order to keep their excess monies. Cherry Hill cannot afford complacency in light of their aggressive tactics. Vigilant defense of these budget increases are vital if Cherry Hill hopes to address necessary facilities and security improvements, and maintain excellence in its curriculum.
The inequitable distribution of state funds that has shortchanged the district for so long depends on the notion that Cherry Hill is a wealthy community and can therefore afford the tax burden it has accumulated. This assumption is based on numbers taken from a study done in 2000, and does not reflect the district population’s current economic situation. Today Cherry Hill has both an increasing number of Title I schools and students receiving Free and Reduced Lunch. Yet the burden of funding the school budget falls almost entirely on the local tax base: 91.5% of the 2019-20 school budget comes from local sources. Other districts, including Washington Township, Lenape Regional, Eastern Regional and Toms River, derive a quarter to a third of their budgets from state aid.
District Total Spending State Aid $ State Aid %
Cherry Hill $215,930,818 $18,424,898 8.5%
Brick $155,855,316 $32,300,703 20.7%
Toms River $242,289,201 $64,356,786 26.6%
Washington Twp $149,260,322 $48,074,817 32.2%
Lenape Reg $162,782,310 $28,088,536 17.3%
Maple Shade $44,522,514 $11,657,860 26.2%
Eastern Reg $38,855,366 $9,374,650 24.1%
Information taken from published User Friendly Budgets 2019-20