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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Teachers in Arizona, Colorado and elsewhere across the country have marched in a push for more funding, but in New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is proposing about $283 million in new school aid and says that kind of pushback won’t happen on his watch.

The protests and strikes stem from teachers’ calls for higher pay and more resources and have in some states resulted in concessions from Republican officials who had been reluctant to raise taxes to finance greater funding.

But New Jersey has among the highest paid teachers in the country and elected Murphy, a progressive Democrat, whose core campaign pledge was boosting state aid to schools. The higher aid is also a window into how Murphy aims to address one of the state’s biggest issues: sky-high property taxes.

Murphy won election with help the state’s biggest teacher’s union and has pointed to the protests in other states this week in a speech to mark his 100th day in office.

“As long as I’m here and we’re here, that ain’t gonna happen in New Jersey. You have my word,” he said.

A closer look at New Jersey’s school funding, which is emerging as a key issue as the Democrat-led Legislature considers Murphy’s $37.4 billion budget proposal:


The first-term governor proposed about $283 million in new aid for schools as part of a four-year phase in aimed at reaching a roughly $1 billion infusion for the state’s school funding formula.

Murphy campaigned on the issue and cast the payment as an obligation that the state must meet to make it more competitive as well as “stronger and fairer.”

He’s proposed financing that and costs through tax hikes, including on incomes over $1 million and raising the sales tax from 6.625 percent to 7 percent.


Democrats say they’ll work with Murphy, but there’s also been friction. Most significantly, Senate President Steve Sweeney objected to Murphy’s funding proposal because it did not eliminate caps on enrollment that result in some districts getting lower funding. It also failed to reallocate funding from districts that don’t need higher funding to those whose state aid has stagnated over the decade since the school funding formula was established.

That issue has seen school districts whose funding have been hurt gathering at the statehouse to call for more aid, and at one town-hall meeting a voter got in Murphy’s face about the state assistance.

Murphy assured voters he’s on their side and that he’s willing to reconsider how his administration would parcel out funding, but the details haven’t been disclosed.


Murphy has argued that by fully funding schools he’s providing “direct property tax relief.” State aid to school districts, the argument goes, could help take pressure off the state’s nearly 600 school districts, which levy property taxes. It’s a view shared by the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers union.

“We believe that fully funding schools is a key element in helping to control property taxes in New Jersey,” NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said.

Some preliminary evidence indicates that higher funding has reduced some property taxes, but for just a few districts.

In 2018, the final fiscal year under Republican Chris Christie’s budget, lawmakers boosted school funding for underfunded districts by nearly $150 million. According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, about 400 districts got an increase and of those districts the average increase was about 2.3 percent.

Of the districts that saw an increase, just 22 passed the savings along to property taxpayers, according to the Department of Education.