According to unofficial results, voters turned down 260 of 479 budgets in 19 counties Tuesday night. Voters have not defeated a majority of school budgets since 1976.
The elections were particularly contentious this year because Gov. Chris Christie and the state's largest teachers union have been sparring over property taxes and the quality of education.
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Under Christie's proposed state budget, schools would get less money from the government. Most districts are planning layoffs and tax increases.
Christie says layoffs can be avoided. He urged voters to reject budgets in schools where teachers have not agreed to have their salaries frozen and do not contribute to their health insurance premiums.
Teachers union officials say the governor is a bully.