Not a huge surprise here, but let’s not play down the significance of this ruling. It’s also a major victory for the Corzine Administration.
Basically the Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld the Governor’s new school funding formula. This was passed last year and known as the School Funding Reform Act or SFRA.
For years, politicians particularly those on the Republican side of the aisle have criticized the landmark Abbott v. Burke decision which dates back to the 1970’s. It found that NJ must provide an equal education to it’s neediest students in the 31 districts. That has meant disproportional funding for those districts.
The criticism was that by trying to meet that constitutional requirement, other districts were getting shortchanged. There is only so much education dough to go around, ya see.
Anyway, the Corzine Administration, in a very bold move, effectually said, “yes, that’s kinda true.” The Court decisions have tied the hands of policy makers. Thus, they crafted a new funding formula that also provides adequate funding for poor districts not considered part of that original 31. Much more equitable and fair, the Gov and his AG who argued the case say.
But here is why this is so important politically. The Governor, known as a liberal, basically took on the left wing of the party and completely took away the issue from any Republican he might face in the fall. Now when an opponent from the right says the Abbott decision is killing the state’s budget, Corzine’s response is “you’re right, that is why I changed it.”
And they did so with some very clever legal work which enabled the state to preserve the precedent set by the court, while allowing themselves more room to actually set education policy.
Kinda brilliant, actually. Even Republicans were reduced to issuing press releases along the lines of “this is only a first step.”