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Archive for the ‘Abbott Districts’ Category

It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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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.”

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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.

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