What is SFRA?
The Constitution of the State of New Jersey states that the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools for the instruction of all children in the State between the ages of 5 and 18 years. The State, in addition to any constitutional mandates, has a moral obligation to ensure that New Jersey's children, wherever they reside, are provided the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. Any school funding formula should provide resources in a manner that optimizes the likelihood that children will receive an education that will make them productive members of society.
The term "thorough and efficient" was born in 1875 and 95 years later a lawsuit on behalf of poor children sought equity in school funding. The Supreme Court ruled against that formula then and again in 1988 in the infamous "Abbott" ruling. The QEA funding formuala is born in 1990 which would then be shot down by the Supreme Court. CEIFA would follow as a result to also be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, developed the method to fund schools as a result of the State Legislature's failure to develop a fair formula. Eventually, and after a number of additional lawsuits and interventions by the Supreme Court, SFRA became law in 2008 and the Supreme Court declared it constitutional. To ready the history of school funding in NJ click here.
The School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) represents an equitable and predictable way to distribute State aid as identified by the Supreme Court. The formula established in the SFRA is a product of careful and deliberative process that first involved determining the educational inputs necessary to provide a high-quality education, including specifically address the supplemental needs of at-risk students, and a determination of the actual cost of providing those program. The formula provided adequate funding that is realistically geared to the core curriculum content standards, thus linking those standards to the actual funding needed to deliver that content.
The time has come for the State to resolve the question of the level of funding required to provide a thorough and efficient system of education for all NJ school children... The development of a predictable, transparent school funding formula is essential for school districts to plan effectively and deliver the quality education that our citizens expect and our Constitution requires. (SFRA, 2008)
Fair Funding Index
The Fair Funding Index combines three key variables: (1) percentage of state aid received; (2) percentage of local fair share contributed by tax levy; and, (3) percentage of adequacy spending budgeted.