Friday Facts and Figures: August 14, 2020

Friday Facts and Figures is a brief digital newsletter focusing on data points from NJPP reports, research, and policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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COVID-19 Cases: 186,594 | Deaths: 14,054
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]


Unanimous

In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that New Jersey can borrow up to $9.9 billion to balance the state budget and offset revenue losses caused by COVID-19. While the state constitution requires lawmakers to pass a balanced budget every year, it also allows for borrowing in response to extreme emergencies. In the court’s decision, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote, “Because the collapse in revenue brought on by the pandemic affects the state’s ability to provide for direct aid and other government services, the emergency exception permits the state to borrow in order to meet them.” While borrowing, especially at this level, should always be viewed with skepticism, state lawmakers have few other options, especially without significantly more aid from the federal government. NJPP applauded the court’s decision, with Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Reynertson stating that borrowing “will set the stage for a stronger and faster pandemic recovery.” [NJ.com / Samantha Marcus]


Remote

Big education news this week: Governor Murphy announced that certain school districts will be allowed to offer all-remote learning this fall. Under the new guidelines, school districts will be able to start classes remotely if they explain why they could not meet the state’s health and safety standards to open in person. Districts that start remotely will also have to provide a plan for meeting those standards and give a date when they will resume in person learning. This decision follows weeks of protests and collective action by teachers and school staff in support of keeping school buildings closed. On Tuesday, the New Jersey Education Association, Association of School Administrators, and Principals and and Supervisors Association called on the state to direct all public schools to open remotely this fall. [NorthJersey.com / Ashley Balcerzak, Hannan Adely, and Alexis Shanes]


100,000

A new NJPP report finds that reopening schools — whether in person or virtually — will cost school districts more than educating students in a typical school year. Schools may not be able to shoulder these increased costs, however, as the COVID-19 crisis comes on the heels of more than a decade of underfunding public education. As it stands, more than 100,000 New Jersey students attend school in districts that are underfunded by more than $5,000 per pupil (for reference, the average budget cost per student was $16,599 in the 2018-19 school year). And due to decades of racially discriminatory and exclusionary housing policies, Black and Latinx students are disproportionately represented in underfunded districts across the state. The report concludes with a recommendation for the state to raise new revenue — by ensuring the state’s wealthiest residents pay their fair share in taxes — to fully fund public education and help districts absorb new costs associated with reopening during the pandemic. [NJPP / Bruce D. Baker and Mark Weber]


50 Percentage Points

Does the “county line” impact primary election results in New Jersey? Yes! According to a new report by NJPP Trustee and Rutgers University professor Julia Sass Rubin, candidates’ share of the vote varied by as much as 50 percentage points (!!!) based on whether or not they were on the county line. This must-read report reviews this year’s primary election results in ten congressional races where different candidates held the line in different counties, or where some counties did not use a county line ballot. As NJPP President Brandon McKoy said in the report release, “To have policies and budgets that reflect the needs of voters, we need free and fair elections in New Jersey. We cannot deny the influence of the line on elections.” [NJPP / Julia Sass Rubin]


ICYMI 1

Join us for the final event in the NJPP Progress 2020 virtual speaker series: The Future of Economic Security. This panel discussion will focus on bold policies that address the systemic inequities at the root of poverty, from expanding existing programs like the EITC and TANF to new policies like UBI, baby bonds, reparations, and more. Register now for this free event featuring Sara Cullinane, Executive Director of Make the Road New Jersey, Sebastian Johnson, writer and policy advocate, and Otis Rolley, Senior Vice President, U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at the Rockefeller Foundation. [NJPP / Progress 2020]


ICYMI 2

It’s time to celebrate! Please join the NJPP team, our distinguished honorees, and keynote speaker Darrick Hamilton, Ph.D. for a virtual Celebration of Progress award reception on Thursday, September 10 at 6:00PM. We are beyond thrilled to have Hamilton keynote this event, as he is a leading economist on the causes of — and solutions to — growing racial and ethnic inequality. The event will also include some New Jersey-themed trivia, which you won’t want to miss. Click the link to register! [NJPP / Celebration of Progress]


Pets of NJPP

The pets are back! This time courtesy of NJPP’s new budget coalition coordinator, Adam Cohen. This is Adam’s co-working cat, Dander! Dander prefers dry food over wet food — and she loves attention. She makes a habit of laying on Adam’s computer mouse or keyboard when he tries to get work done or play video games. She also thinks that Adam’s neck is a great place to sleep. Adam disagrees. Meow!


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