The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the state’s school funding formula.
For me, this was quite interesting since I have never seen a case argued before the SCONJ, and Attorney General Anne Milgram argued the case herself for the state. This indicates to me that the administration not only has tremendous faith in the weight of their argument, but they also desperately need and want to win here.
Since 1973, in one form or another the state’s school funding levels have been manipulated by the courts. In what have come to be known as the Abbott Districts, which are the 31 neediest, the court mandates how much needs to be spent based on a formula.
Obviously, this has become problematic for the administration particularly in these tough fiscal times. So, last year the legislature passed and the Governor signed the School Funding Reform Act or SFRA.
Under the previous Abbott formula, the state argues that 55% of the resources were going to 32% of the students. That needs to be changed to give the money out based on need and not an outmoded model. Moreover, the state wants the legislative and executive branches determining education policy – not the courts.
But David Sciarra of the Education Law Center said the new formula was already tried this year and it was a failure. He says yopu can’t take money away from the 31 neediest and redistribute it to others that might also be needy.
But the Justices did not appear to be buying it. They essentially told him that efficiencies need to be found within the districts and that there are a finite amount of resources to go around.
“The state purse is not unlimited,” said Associate Justice Barry Albin.
Curious to see how this will play out. If the court rules in favor of the administration, it will be a sea change in how New Jersey funds it’s public schools and it will give the government far more leeway in determining what is fair and equitable.