ROONEY RANTS: Sorry, Fairness Formula haters… I can’t steal what’s already mine!

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Tomorrow (Tues. 8/23), Governor Chris Christie will take his fairness formula road show to Bordentown in Burlington County. He wants every child in New Jersey to get  $6,599 for their K-12 education annually.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) visits a Camden, NJ classroom in January 2014.
Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) visits a Camden, NJ classroom in January 2014.

It’s a no-brainer for taxpayers and students alike. After all, why should any sane, not-on-the-take person support a system that treats some children as more valuable than others yet continues to fail so many?

Haters gonna hate, Save Jerseyans. And language can be used to buoy a bad premise if you’re not reading carefully enough.

Take the piece from this morning excitedly titled “Why public pre-K programs could die under Christie plan” as a prime example of what I’m talking about:

Christie in June introduced a major school funding overhaul that calls for redistributing the state’s $9.1 billion in direct school aid equally per student.

If that plan, which takes money from urban districts and gives to many suburban districts, gets approved, Christie would not protect the $653 million currently spent on full-day preschool for three and four years olds, he said earlier this month.

That means that the $86 million in preschool funding to Newark, $44 million to Elizabeth, $29 million to Trenton and millions more to other urban and low-income districts would be among the billions sent to suburban towns for property tax relief.

I took the liberty of bold-ing several segments of the above excerpt for a reason…

Bad Premise #1: Pre-K education is a critical program and universally-accept good? False. It’s glorified daycare. Don’t take my word for it; the data is clear. Our federal government’s own data confirms little (if any) cognitive benefit to early education attendees going back half a century (!) despite the enormous associated cost to taxpayers. And ‘enormous‘ is an understatement.

What these little guys and gals really need are parents who can afford to spend more time with them; fixing New Jersey’s property tax-driven cost of living hellscape is the logical place to start, making the adoption of Governor Christie’s fairness formula reform all the more important.

Bad Premise #2: Christie’s formula will “redistribute” funds? False. Simply put, folks, you can’t “steal” something that already belongs to you! State-wide, the average percentage of property taxes spent on schools is 52%. In New Jersey’s 31 School Development Authority (SDA) districts? Only 26%. Students in SDA districts receive 5-times more state aid than students in non-SDA districts; That’s because suburban taxpayers are propping up school districts in cities that aren’t serving urban children. Defending a system that spends $30k per year, per K-12 child in Camden but produces only THREE college-ready high school seniors is, in of itself, an indefensible act.

Christie’s plan greatly reduces redistributive practices by keeping more money in the pockets of the folks paying the bills while forcing failing districts to cut waste and make better use of their funds. We’re getting our money back. Return, not redistribute!

These points aren’t a mere matter of semantics, folk.

Facts matter, mathematics matters, and the excuses for propping up New Jersey’s urban failure factories are wearing very thin.

Don’t like it? Move so the rest of us don’t have to.