Today we find out if Gov. Chris Christie intends to waste his final months in office in a doomed battle to savage the school budgets of poor districts like Newark and Camden to reduce property taxes in wealthier towns.
The smart money says he will not pull the trigger, mainly because he knows he can't win this fight. The Democratic legislature would never support such a backward plan, one that would require Newark to cut its school spending by more than half, forcing mass teacher layoffs.
Cities across the state would face the same kind of catastrophe. And that includes the urban charter schools that are the governor's most important success story. He would be trashing his own legacy.
Even if the governor somehow signed this into law, the state Supreme Court would knock it down in a second. They are so hung up, after all, about giving poor kids a fair shot, as the state's Constitution demands.
Our governor knows all that. He has his flaws, but he is not stupid.
If he does press this case, it means only one thing: that he feels he may benefit politically from the dust-up. Like Ahab chasing his whale, our governor will never give up on that quest. Even on his political death bed, he will beckon.
The governor's core idea is that all children should receive the same amount of aid from the state, which works out to $6,600 each. He calls it the "Fairness Formula."
But it's not fair. It would ignore the far greater challenges urban districts face with students who are poor, who don't speak English, or who arrive as immigrants without any formal schooling at all.
It would also ignore the vast differences in wealth among New Jersey towns and cities. In Glen Ridge, the average homeowner would see a windfall of $4,500. In Newark, filling the vacuum would cost the average homeowner an extra $3,400.
Just what New Jersey needs: A deeper divide between rich and poor, suburbs and the cities, black and white.
It's no wonder the governor never accepted the challenge to hold a single open public hearing on this plan in a city. When you are about to mug someone, you don't ask for their support.
The school aid formula is a mess as it stands, after seven years of Christie's misrule. If he wants to begin repairs now, he has plenty of options. He could reduce the "adjustment aid" that funnels money to places like Jersey City, as if there had been no boom. He could adjust aid with changes in enrollment, a no-brainer that is overdue. He could increase overall funding to make up for years of freezes.
What he should not do is play political games. He doesn't have much time left. Here's hoping he uses it constructively.Education Professor Calls Governor's Fairness Formula 'Misleading'
Tom Moran may be reached at email@example.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.
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