Budget Implications of Common Core and Tenure Reform Initiatives
The costs of implementing new teacher and principal evaluation systems and the “common core” standards are major budget issues for both school districts and the state.
- I. Cost of Tenure Reform/Teacher Evaluation Mandates
The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) said it was unable to fully determine the costs of major components of the mandates in the TEACH-NJ act passed last summer. This includes the required mentoring program for first year teachers, the costs of the arbitration system for tenure hearings, and the full costs of the prescribed evaluation systems. A partial OLS estimate exceeded $60 million. These costs were not included in the Department’s FY2013 budget. [The OLS estimate can be found at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2012/Bills/S1500/1455_E1.HTM]
Two provisions of the Teach NJ Act, the tenure reform law, mention the cost issue but do not resolve it. The first provision states:
15(c) “All funds budgeted by a school district for professional development shall be used primarily to provide the professional development required pursuant to the provisions.”
However, if districts use “all” professional development funds “primarily” to implement the new educator evaluation processes required by the law, few funds will be available for other mandates like implementing the common core standards and anti-bullying requirements.
Another provision states:
20. The Department of Education shall provide the funds necessary to effectuate the provisions of this act.
While NJDOE has provided partial funding to the few dozen districts in its evaluation pilot programs, ongoing resources to support these new costs have not been identified for the overwhelming majority of NJ’s 600 districts. An “unfunded mandate” claim, similar to the one some districts raised in response to last year’s anti-bullying legislation is possible.
II. Costs of Common Core Implementation
NJ has adopted common core standards in math and language arts with other subjects to follow. Schools are required to implement these standards and prepare for new assessments created by a multi-state, federally funded consortium called PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of College Readiness and Careers).
The Pioneer Institute estimated common core implementation in NJ would cost over $500 million. The conservative Fordham Institute gave a lower, but still substantial estimate of $200 million. Much of this is supposed to be for professional development and new assessments, including the computer systems needed to administer the new tests:
The Pioneer Institute report’s “mid-range projection of costs” to implement the common core standards statewide in NJ include:
- $250 million in professional development costs ;
- $80 million in textbooks and instructional materials;
- $225 million for technology and infrastructure (including data systems and computerized testing).
According to the Fordham Foundation, costs viewed on a per-pupil basis range from $249 to $396 for “Business as Usual;” under “Balanced Implementation” they range from $109 to $189.
An NJ Spotlight report said that more than half of NJ’s districts do not currently have the technology needed to deliver the assessments. [See: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/12/09/26/online-assessments-test-the-limits-of-public-school-technology/]