The Education Law Center (ELC) has gone back to the state Supreme Court in an effort to force Gov. Chris Christie to obey the school funding law.
The ELC released this statement earlier this morning:
In papers filed yesterday, Education Law Center has asked the NJ Supreme Court to step in and address Governor Christie’s decision to abandon the State’s cutting-edge, weighted student funding formula to calculate education aid for the 2014-15 school year.
In notices sent to all school districts on February 25, the Governor decided not to run the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), New Jersey’s funding formula enacted with bipartisan support in 2008. The aid notices did not contain the amount of state aid districts should receive next year under the formula or their “adequacy budgets.” Under the SFRA, the adequacy budget represents the overall funding districts need to deliver the State’s academic standards to students.
According to the ELC court filings, the Governor’s refusal to use the SFRA formula to calculate school aid and adequacy budgets for each district violates the 2009 and 2011 NJ Supreme rulings in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case. In the 2009 ruling, the Court allowed the State to implement the SFRA, but only if the State operated the formula from year-to-year at its “optimal level.”
In 2011, the Court, in ordering the Governor to restore $500 million in funding cut from urban districts, again ordered the State to keep the formula running properly in future years. In both rulings, the Court made crystal clear that the State has a continuing obligation to operate the formula every year to ensure all students the resources they need for a constitutional, “thorough and efficient” education.
“The Governor’s abandonment of the funding formula defies two explicit Supreme Court orders,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and lead attorney in the Abbott case. “We will not let the Governor return New Jersey to the pre-SFRA era when funding decisions were irrational and had no concrete link to the cost of enabling all students to achieve State curriculum standards, especially at-risk children across the state.”
ELC is asking the Court to quickly order the Commissioner of Education to issue state aid notices to districts that include the maximum amount of aid payable under the formula as well as the district’s adequacy budget. ELC is also asking for the Commissioner to notify districts of the approved adjustments to the formula’s costs, weights and aid amounts for FY15 and FY16, as the SFRA law requires. This notice has not been sent, ignoring the Legislature’s careful review of the Governor’s recommended formula adjustments a year ago.
“It is critical that the Court order the Commissioner to issue these notices forthwith so that district officials and parents know how much funding schools need to deliver State academic standards, and the amount of funding they should be receiving under the formula,” said Mr. Sciarra. “Legislators must have this information to evaluate the paltry $36 million school aid increase offered by the Governor and to decide how much additional aid to appropriate in the FY15 State budget to meet student needs.”