New Jersey Overhauls School Finance

Craig McCoy:

Over the objections of big-city Democrats and suburban Republicans, Gov. Corzine’s sweeping overhaul of how New Jersey pays for public education passed the Legislature last night.
Corzine and his allies in the Legislature say the measure would more fairly distribute nearly $8 billion in annual state education aid.
The bill would hike this year’s state education funding by 7 percent. Some districts would see an increase of as much as 20 percent, and all would get at least a 2 percent increase.
But urban lawmakers bitterly predicted the bill would harm 31 disadvantaged school districts, including those in Camden, Newark and others that have received tens of millions in extra school aid in recent years.
Republicans, meanwhile, criticized a part of the law that would for the first time allocate a big chunk of state special-education aid based on the relative wealth of communities.
As a result, affluent schools would get less per handicapped student, under the theory that local taxpayers can more easily pick up that cost.
As Corzine pushed to get the bill through yesterday on the last day of the lame-duck legislative sessions, its passage became a cliff-hanger in the Senate.
There, Democratic leaders initially could only muster 20 “yes” votes – one short of a majority – after the chamber’s six African American senators, all Democrats, linked up with Republicans to vote against the measure.