State Must Find $500 Million More For School Funding

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TRENTON – The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration must find more money for schools in the state’s poorest districts. The decision will cost approximately $500 million, according to an estimate based on Office of Legislative Services figures.

The ruling does not require increased funding statewide, as education advocates sought – that could have cost up to $1.7 billion.


Last week, officials said that estimated tax collections were up between $500 and $900 million over original projections, which would potentially allow the state to meet the court’s requirement without slashing other programs or raising taxes.

The court’s opinion said that the children in New Jersey’s designated Abbott school districts right to full “is a constitutional mandate, supported by judicial findings and past orders. Those past rulings are not subject to suspension under the legislative appropriation power.”

Some feel that the court didn’t go far enough in its decision today.

“The New Jersey School Boards Association believes in fair and equitable distribution of state aid.  In 2008, NJSBA supported the principles of the School Funding Reform Act, based on the act’s recognition that at-risk students attend schools in communities throughout New Jersey, not just in 31 communities,” said NJSBA President Raymond R. Wiss. “Today’s court decision does not resolve these matters.”

“As Senate President, I am committed to bringing all underfunded districts up to the adequacy standard, which will ensure proper funding for the state’s 205 underfunded districts,” said state Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) “Using the state’s windfall, we should provide additional funding for all inadequately funded districts across New Jersey. This will render the court’s decision a moot point.

Justices Helen Hoens and Roberto Rivera-Soto filed a dissenting motion, arguing that the court should not tread on the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches and saying that there is insufficient evidence that reduced funding prevented the districts from providing a constitutionally adequate education.

Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Justice Barry T. Albin and Justice Edwin Stern, who was appointed to the court on a temporary basis as the governor and legislature squabble over a permanent nominee.

The administration had argued that it could not afford to provide all of the money called for under a revised school funding formula approved in 2008 because of current economic conditions. Education advocates argued that the cuts prevented New Jersey school children from receiving a constitutionally guaranteed “thorough and efficient” public education.

The opinions are available online at the New Jersey Courts website

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