Last week, the Atlantic City Public Schools introduced a budget to spend $287 million dollars for its 6,450 students during the next school year. That comes to $44,496 per student.
This is a $19.6 million increase over the $268.2 million Atlantic City public schools are spending for the current 2022-2023 school year. Atlantic City is currently spending $41,581 per student.
Most of the increase is paid for by increased state spending, rather than local property taxes. The State will pay $115.2 million dollars of next year’s Atlantic City school budget. That is $19.1 million more than the $96.1 million it is paying this year.
In 1966, New Jersey began a 2% sales tax so that the state could pay part of the cost of local public schools. In 1976, New Jersey enacted a new state income tax which promised to reduce real estate property taxes. All money from the state income tax is paid into a “Property Tax Relief Fund”. New Jersey state income tax refund checks are paid out of the “Property Tax Relief Fund”.
Of course, neither the 1966 state sales tax nor the income tax ever reduced local real estate taxes. Local governments and school board immediately applied the new state money to increased salaries for government employees.
At first the Property Tax Relief Fund from the new state income tax was distributed evenly to all towns and school districts throughout the state with the hope that they would reduce real estate taxes.
However, in 1985, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a big chunk of the Property Tax Relief Fund had to be used for a far different purpose. It ruled in the Abbott vs. Burke case that roughly a third of all money collected from the New Jersey income tax be paid to increase spending in 31 minority school districts run by Democrats. Since then, Democratic Governors have routinely used the “Property Tax Relief Fund” to help cities, towns and school districts run by Democrats at the expense of small towns, suburbs, and rural areas run by Democrats. Atlantic City was never an “Abbott” school district because of its large casino tax base. However, Democratic Governors have given Atlantic City public schools large payments from the state’s “Property Tax Relief Fund” anyway.
The New Jersey Supreme Court declared in Abbott vs. Burke case that transferring “Property Tax Relief” moneys to minority school districts would improve the quality of education there.
However, this never happened. The Atlantic City public schools are proof that there is little or no connection between the amount of money spent by public schools and the quality of education.
According to PublicSchoolReview.com, Atlantic City spends far more per student than the average New Jersey school district. And yet it ranked #597 out of 648 school districts in New Jersey for academic performance.
Student proficiency in mathematics fell from 58% in 2011 to 9% in 2021. Student performance in reading and language arts fell from 49% in 2011 to 26% in 2021.
The Atlantic City public schools are clearly producing students who are not employable in most productive occupations.
Is this why they are promoting “Diversity Equity and Inclusion”? Are they preparing Americans to accept the idea that the right skin color and ethnic background are a substitute for skills needed to do a job well?
Does this explain the culture of violence we have seen among young people in Atlantic City during the past year?
Also is this level of spending sustainable? How long can all levels of government continue to increase their spending, borrowing and taxes when the people who pay those taxes are earning less?
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