N.J. maintains No. 1 ranking in public education — its top talking point when it comes to attracting companies

Whether it’s a New Jersey company he’s working with to expand its operations, a U.S.-based business he’s trying to relocate to the state or an international company he’s trying to bring from overseas, Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano said he always starts with the same pitch: education.

“It’s the one thing that’s incredibly important to everyone,” Lozano told ROI-NJ.

And it’s the one thing that differentiates the state from all others.

On Wednesday, New Jersey was again ranked the No. 1 state in the country for public schools, according to Quality Counts 2020: Grading the States, released by Education Week.

New Jersey was given a “B+” grade with a score of 87.3. Massachusetts was the only other state to get a “B+,” coming in at 86.7. Next in line were Connecticut (“B”: 84.1), Maryland (“B-“: 82.4) and Wyoming (“B-“: 82.3). The country as a whole was given a “C” at 75.9.

Lozano said his team always is ready to roll off the numbers during recruitment talks.

“Be it relocation or expansion, we always lead with our superior education standards,” he said.

Lozano said the numbers go a long way to backing up what Gov. Phil Murphy always preaches: You pay more in New Jersey, but you get more.

Education Week

“We acknowledge that New Jersey may not be the cheapest state, but the overall quality of education is priceless,” he said. “It comes up when we talk about the intersection of value and values — both for the company in developing their workforce pipeline and for the employee wanting to make sure she/he provides their family with the greatest tool someone can have: A quality education.

“There’s never been a time when a company hasn’t acknowledged how important — and how valuable — this is.”

Education Week, in a release, said the data used in the rankings captures conditions from 2017-19 on a 50-state basis — and that the report provides overall grades and scores based on 39 indicators in three broad categories developed by the EdWeek Research Center: chance for success, school finance and K-12 achievement.

The categories offer states an opportunity to see where they can improve, the editors said.

For instance, New Jersey expanded its margin over Massachusetts from a few hundredths of a point in 2019 to nearly a whole point this year because it maintained its 5.9-point advantage in school finance and cut into Massachusetts’ lead in the two other graded categories. In 2019, New Jersey trailed Massachusetts by 2.4 points in Chance for Success and by 3.4 points in K-12 Achievement, but now falls behind by 2.1 and 2 points, respectively.

New Jersey ranks second nationally for school finance, based on the fact that it is sixth for per-pupil expenditures (at $17,707, once figures are adjusted for regional cost differences) and that 99.9% of state students are in districts spending at or above the U.S. average.

These results, Education Week said, are anchored by the state’s commitment to education funding, as New Jersey devotes 5.1% of its total taxable resources to education, the third-highest share in the nation. The state, however, finishes in the bottom tier for finance equity (No. 31).

Murphy, who never misses a chance to tout the recognition, gave thanks to educators during his COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

“This is possible because of our commitment to partnering with our educational communities, to supporting our schools and communities, and to the tremendously talented professionals in front of our classrooms and in the administrative offices,” he said.

As someone who has five kids, three of whom have graduated high school in New Jersey, my family can attest to the quality of the education. The ranking should be a point of pride for all residents. And, of course, be a major tool in the toolbox of facts and figures the state uses to attract and retain businesses.

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, said it’s a go-to line for his team, too.

“Being able to tell CEOs around the country and around the world that New Jersey is home to America’s No. 1 public school system is an incredibly powerful card for Gov. Murphy and our team to play when making the case for why they should call the Garden State home,” he told ROI-NJ. “Most CEOs know that their success rises and falls based on their ability to attract and retain a talented workforce — a workforce that wants great schools for its kids.”