Two legislative committees were scheduled to hold a joint hearing today to consider Gov. Corzine's proposed new formula for how the state would give money to local schools.

The topic could be hot for the next few weeks. Democratic lawmakers, the majority in both houses in Trenton, want the law passed by Jan. 8.

Here are some questions and answers about what the new formula means for students, schools and taxpayers.

Question:

What is different about the new proposed formula?

Answer:

There would be one formula for allocating money - simplified, compared with the current one, but still complex - that would apply to each of the state's 618 school districts. Currently, 31 districts in poor areas - known as the Abbott districts - get a lot of extra help. Other districts, especially in recent years, haven't seen much increase in their state aid. Under the new formula, the number of low-income students in a district would be a major factor.

Q:

What are other factors in this formula?

A:

New Jersey will calculate how much it costs to meet the requirement in the State Constitution to give every student a "thorough and efficient education." The state bases its share of the requirement on the wealth of a district: Poorer districts would get a higher percentage of their budget from the state.

Q:

How much does it cost to provide a "thorough and efficient education?"

A:

The state says it starts at $9,649 per year for an elementary school student. Middle school and high school students cost more to educate, as do students learning English, and those with speech issues.

Q:

Will schools get more money now?

A:

The state is planning to pump an extra $530 million into the education system next year. For the first three years, each district would get more state aid than it saw this year. For the 2008-09 school year, every district would get at least 2 percent more.

Q:

Would certain schools benefit more than others?

A:

The biggest increases will be in relatively low-income non-Abbott districts, such as Pennsauken and Lakewood, and to fast-growing districts, such as Elmwood Park and South Brunswick. There's a cap on increases, so districts cannot see their allocations rise by more than 20 percent each year.

Q:

Do any schools stand to lose money?

A:

Not at first. But some could see smaller contributions starting with the 2011-12 school year. Those most likely to see cuts, or the smallest increases, would be wealthier districts where the enrollment is shrinking, such as Princeton and Middletown. Also, the Education Law Center says 26 Abbott districts could see decreases in the future.

Q:

How will this affect taxpayers?

A:

That's a tricky question. The bulk of school budgets in most New Jersey communities come from local property taxes. Property taxes have skyrocketed this decade in most towns partly because state aid to schools has barely increased while the cost of running the schools has risen sharply.

Q:

What else is new under the proposal?

A:

Free preschools could be expanded. The state funds all-day programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in the Abbott districts - something credited with giving those students a huge boost later on. Under the plan, the state would eventually pay for similar programs for all 3- and 4-year-olds in lower-income districts.