NJ’s “Cost Per Pupil” is a flawed comparison of school district cost.
On its face, the NJ Department of Education's "cost-per-pupil" is an inviting metric upon which to compare and contrast school spending among New Jersey's 600+ districts. However, cost-per-pupil is misleading as it distorts the intentional, extra investment for students with more needs, including at-risk students and students with limited English proficiency. Specifically, the intentionally extra investment - mandated by the state's school funding law - can be misinterpreted as "overspending." The Education Law Center highlighted this issue back in 2010, quoting Melvin Wyns, former head of the Division of Finance for the NJ Department of Education, who called cost-per-pupil "highly inappropriate and misleading."
Let's dig into the nuance, because it matters for equity. To help anchor and contextualize the discussion, I will compare Jersey City (in Hudson County) to Summit (in Union County). Read more...
CivicParent is rooted in sharing public tax data, insights, and analysis with the public.
I am a licensed CPA with a background in public accounting, tax and technology client service, and business analytics. I currently teach at the Frank J. Guarini School of Business at Saint Peter's University. I believe civics - and community - can be strengthened when the public can more easily access and understand public data; including budgets, school aid, school enrollment, property tax data, and more.
CivicParent is a 100% volunteer effort. I welcome comments and questions via email at Brigid@CivicParent.org. You can learn more about Civic Parent's roots here.
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Learn about local public finance in the Garden State
NEW JERSEY: BY THE NUMBERS
While we are one Garden State, we are fragmented by county, town, and school district. This has implications with property tax, including school & city taxes.
PUTTING PUBLIC DATA INTO PERSONAL CONTEXT
This visualization shows data from NJ's 2019 property tax tables. It shows both the size of tax bases throughout the Garden State and the equalization ratio for each tax base (the equalization ratio shows the relationship between the tax base's assessed value and equalized (or market) value).
Each circle is a tax base. There are 565 tax bases represented; the larger the circle, the larger the tax base. There are also 565 equalization ratios; the darker the red, the lower the equalization ratio. To learn more about the equalization ratios and how it factors into property taxes and property revaluation, click here.
FEATURED DATA SET
EXPLORE PUBLIC DATA
This is the dataset for the visualization above showing select data from NJ's 2019 property tax tables. The property tax tables are published annually by the NJ Division of Taxation. The source data is available via Excel/CSV download here. I downloaded the dataset to Excel and then created a Tableau visualization to enable CivicParent readers to drill into and explore based on your interest. You can filter and sort this data based on:
- County (use the drop-down box to select or unselect one or more counties)
- Municipality (this will update based on the "County" selection)
- Equalization Ratio (use the sliding scale to create min or max values)
You can also sort the data using the column header auto-sort option (hover over a column header and wait for the down or up arrow to appear).
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