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approved the funding proposal and methodology that the States put forward, and we are no longer under court order here--but what we have done is we are now recognizing enrollment, and for the first time we are going to a full enrollment and basing our funding on enrollment, but we are also basing it on something new in the State of New Jersey which are standards and accountability. We had no standards in our schools to speak of. We now have standards in seven academic areas. We are testing children in the 4th, 8th, and 11th grades, and we are watching school's performances, and we are rewarding those schools whose children are succeeding on those tests. We are going to be intervening earlier in schools where children are not achieving those tests, and that is also a part of the school funding. The basic formula, however, is based on enrollment. We have determined what it should take to deliver to the core curriculum standards, and, therefore, we are looking at schools that are above or below that average and seeing what their children are doing.
We also have proposed and we have in place now a very comprehensive report card on school districts that shows what money is being spent and how it is being spent. We are No. 1 in the Nation, still, on what we spend on average per child in the classroom. When I took office, we were No. 1 on what we spend on child, on average, through education. But we're 37th on what was actually reaching the child in the classroom and what we were spending on the child in the classroom, and our kids were achieving at about 35th percentile. There is clearly something wrong with that. We were willing to pay a lot of money on education on a per child basis, but it was not reaching the children.
So, that is why we have changed the way we are doing the funding. We have given the State a greater ability to work with in a collegial way, not a takeover way, but a collegial way with school districts that are having trouble delivering that education into the classroom, and we are looking forward to ensuring that we are seeing our kids meet those standards, training our teachers, and by the time I leave office, we will have every classroom in the State of New Jersey, not every school, but every classroom in the State of New Jersey wired for the Internet or distance learning.
We are combining those things with the increased spending that we have put in and the way we are trying to help municipalities and school districts. We have school districts that have no schools in them, and still there is a school district and elected board, and they have some administrative personnel which costs everybody money and is wasted money as far as I am concerned and as far as I believe the children are concerned. So, we are trying to ensure the efficiency, focus on the need in the classroom, and ensure that the State's proportion is equitable but not wasted money.
Mrs. BIGGERT. Well, certainly, one thing that we hear a lot about or at least when I was in the Illinois Legislature, too, was the mandates and mandates that we were putting on schools or local government, and I noticed that you also had signed legislation which provided that local government and taxpayers with relief from unfunded State mandates and then eliminated existing mandates. Could you expand on that a little bit?
Governor WHITMAN. What we have been doing is reviewing every place where the State has placed a mandate that has considerable financial obligations with it to ensure that it is within the scope of what we deem to be the most appropriate thing. We are not going back and refunding dollars on that. What we have said is going forward—we grandfathered the existing programs—but we have said going forward-and it has changed legislation in many instancesany time we have a mandate that has a dollar amount with it that is going to cost local districts money to implement, the State must pick up those dollars, and we have been doing that. The good part of that is that it discourages a lot of legislation. People have thought very carefully now about whether, in fact, this is important legislation to implement when they are going to have to come up with the dollars to pay for it, and that is very important, we think, at the State level. It is nice to have a great idea, but when you start to get serious about who pays for it, there is a second look that is taken.
And, so we are reviewing everything very carefully. We have been reducing mandates, particularly in education. We now do have charter schools in the State of New Jersey which are very successful, and a lot of those the reason for the having them-I mean, one of the advantages that you get is you are outside of a lot of the requirements of the Department of Education, and that is a good thing. I would like to see more charter schools, and we are moving toward that each year.
Mrs. BIGGERT. Are there some mandates you think that the Federal Government has placed on the States that we should be doing the same thing?
Governor WHITMAN. I could give you a list, and I would be happy to give you a list. We don't expect in State government-certainly, I don't expect to get money from the Federal Government without parameters, without some kind of overall goal as to what should be achieved through those dollars, but what starts to lose us money, what wastes us all time is when we get so prescriptive that you have to spend so much of your time filling out forms in order to get the dollars or trying to configure and squeeze a State program into the Federal mandate even though that is not where we need to spend our money.
We have done something very different in the State of New Jersey as far as combining all the dollars that we-we have done it with a focus on our cities, particularly our inner cities, and I have put together a cabinet of the whole and asked them, all departments that have anything to do, any programs that impact on our cities, to come together to reduce the requirements and the strings attached and asked our cities to come forward, particularly withwe have asked them to put together local groups that will tell us neighborhood by neighborhood what
that neighborhood needs, recognizing that not only are cities different, one from another, but the neighborhoods within those cities are different, and we have asked the people to come forward with what their needs are, and we have put together, we have taken money from every program that we have available and allowed them flexibility to apply those dollars to their needs, so that it is not a one-size-fits-all, and the challenge, of course, that you face here is you are dealing with 50 different States, and what works in New Jersey is not going to in Wyoming; it is not going to in Illinois, necessary. The flexibility is required at the local level to be able--and at the State level to be able to reconfigure those dollars to meet the needs.
In education, there are a lot of Federal programs that have strings attached on education. We are now in the process of whole school reform within our special needs district. That means changing the way we set our schools up from the ground up. It means taking parents-getting parents involved in the system and administrators and teachers and changing the length of the day, the way they present the classes. We need to oversee-that is what the courts accepted when they accepted our proposal on State spending for schools. That is what they want to see happen. We need to make sure that our special needs districts are addressing those needs. I have a real concern that a great deal of Federal money that bypasses the States and goes straight to the municipalities, we will have no control over; we will have no ability to ensure that they are, in fact, meeting the needs in the classroom as has been accepted by our State supreme court, and that is a real concern that I have, and as you look at legislation, I would just urge you to understand that there is a great difference amongst the States about needs, and while we are trying not to be overly prescriptive on the individual districts, we have standards and accountability at the State level, and we need to ensure that our districts are meeting those.
Mr. BURTON. Before we yield to Mr. Towns, let me just say that any information that you have or any recommendations that you might have, Governor Whitman, regarding Federal mandates and how they restrict rather than help, if you could have your staff submit those to us, we will take a look at them; maybe we can help you with them.
Governor WHITMAN. Certainly.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before the Committee on Government Reform regarding the tax cuts we have enacted in New Jersey and the economic growth and job creation these tax cuts have helped us achieve. I hope that my testimony will assist Congress in assessing federal tax policy and exploring opportunities to return tax dollars to the American people.
Following up on our discussion during the hearing regarding the impact of unfunded federal mandates on the states, I'd like to provide you with two examples that are currently placing an added burden on the states.
Last year, Congress passed the Agricultural Research Extension Education Act, which funded crop insurance, agricultural research and food stamp benefits for immigrants. That bill was funded with a $1.8 billion cut in federal funding to the states for the administration of the Food Stamp program. The legislation was scored by the Congressional Budget Office as an unfunded mandate, and a point of order was raised on the House floor. However, Congress passed this unfunded mandate, nonetheless, and the President signed it into law. States are now forced to find state revenues to cover the cost of administering this federal program.
Honorable Dan Burton
A second example is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that children with disabilities receive special education services. The costs for state and local governments are significant and continue to increase annually. At the same time, the federal government's commitment to special education has remained at only about ten percent of the total, even though language in the statute calls for the federal government to provide forty percent of the costs. I urge Congress to fully fund its commitment to special education before it funds new initiatives. There are more requirements in this federal education la:v than any other and clearly this program merits full federal support.
I have also included, for your reference, a copy of a letter detailing a number of unfunded federal mandates and cost shifts which was sent to the House and Senate leadership at the beginning of the last Congress by the state and local government association, including the National Governors' Association.
Lastly, I'd like to correct a point that was raised during the hearing by Rep. Edolphus Towns regarding marriage license fees in New Jersey. The fee, which is currently $28, was last increased during my predecessor's term in 1992, not during my administration. Of the total fee, $25 is dedicated to a trust fund for New Jersey victims of domestic violence, and the remaining $3 is retained by the municipality.
Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
Christine Todd Whitman
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