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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chris Christie Ordered To Increase Education Funding For Poor Students

Today The New Jersey Supreme Court Ordered Former Potential 2012 Presidential Candidate Gov. Chris Christie To Increase Educational Funding For Schools In Lower Income Communities.

In Other Words He Can NO Longer Steal Money From Poor Students To Educate Wealthier White Students Living In The Suburbs.

Can You Say Discrimination Disguised As "Budget Cuts"??

All I Can Say On This One Is Thank You Lord Jesus!

Court Orders New Jersey to Increase Aid to Schools

The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the Christie administration on Tuesday to increase state education aid by $500 million in the coming school year, saying it had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide adequate educational resources for poor and minority children.

In a 3-to-2 ruling, the court directed that the additional aid be distributed among 31 school districts in historically poor cities like Camden, Newark and Paterson — the so-called Abbott districts at the heart of a school financing case, Abbott v. Burke, that has roiled state officials and courts for three decades.

While the amount of additional aid the Supreme Court ordered was less than the $1.7 billion requested by some advocates, the decision was still seen as a blow to Gov. Chris Christie, whose efforts to rein in school spending and teachers’ salaries have won broad voter support across the state and helped establish him as a leader in national conservative circles.

Mr. Christie, a Republican who had previously suggested that he might defy a court order to spend more on schools, said Tuesday, “I intend to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.” But at a news conference at the State House, he said he would leave it to the Legislature, controlled by Democrats, to determine how to come up with the money.

“The constitutional ball is now in the Legislature’s court,” the governor said.

Several lawmakers noted that state revenue was running above projections by about the same amount as the court mandate. But it is not clear whether Mr. Christie will agree to spend that additional sum on schools, increasing the overall state budget, rather than finding cuts elsewhere. Lawmakers are facing an estimated $10 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year as they try to hammer out a budget.

Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association, said in a statement that the ruling “begins the process of restoring our schools to fiscal health.” But she also expressed disappointment that state aid would not be restored beyond the 31 Abbott districts, and called on Mr. Christie and lawmakers to honor “the spirit of the ruling” and fully finance a school aid formula for all students in all districts.

“We also urge them to fund the education of students in all districts moving forward so that the state does not waste any more time or money defending the indefensible,” Ms. Keshishian said. “Our children’s education is too important to be left to the whims of politics.”

The ruling capped months of testimony and debate by state officials, educators and advocates for poor children over whether state education cuts had disproportionately harmed poor and minority children who depend most heavily on public resources.

Last year, Mr. Christie, in his first year in office, cut direct aid to individual districts by up to 5 percent of their budgets to help close an $11 billion state deficit. The governor and his aides have argued that the reduction was unavoidable after a $1 billion infusion of federal stimulus money for schools ran out.

But this year, as state revenues have rebounded, Mr. Christie increased school aid by $250 million for 2011-12, effectively restoring one percentage point of the 5 percent reduction to districts. Many districts, not expecting any increase, had already planned their budgets and were able to use the money as a cushion against further layoffs and program cuts and even to restore some previous cuts.

The Abbott lawsuit was filed in 1981 by advocates seeking to ensure that New Jersey’s poorest children receive a constitutionally guaranteed “thorough and efficient education” in a state whose public schools are deeply stratified along socioeconomic and racial lines. Despite years of intervention, the worst-performing schools continue to be in struggling urban centers with large concentrations of black and Hispanic students, like Camden and Newark, while the top-performing schools are in wealthy suburbs like Millburn and Ridgewood.

In 2008, Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature put in place a new school financing formula, in response to criticism that too much aid had been concentrated in the Abbott districts, while many of the state’s neediest children lived outside those districts. The new formula steered increased aid to 205 of the state’s 591 districts, many of them in the suburbs, rather than just 31 urban districts.

In a previous ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the new formula, in part on the specific condition that it be fully financed by the state for the 31 Abbott districts. On Tuesday, the court found that the state’s decision to provide less aid to districts than the formula required “amounts to nothing less than a reneging on the representations it made.”

Democrats said the governor had only himself to blame for the court ruling, because he had violated the 2008 compromise.

“The governor’s reckless decision to ignore the law is the reason that the court has returned us to the very system he has railed against,” said State Senator Barbara Buono, who is seen as a potential candidate for governor.

Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, said that Mr. Christie “was well aware that his draconian cuts to education were illegal,” and noted that during his 2009 campaign, the governor vowed not to cut school aid.

The Supreme Court ruling was complicated as well as narrow. One justice, in a separate opinion, wrote that he would have required the state to provide additional financing to all 205 districts that serve poor children.

But in a dissenting opinion, two justices challenged the order for additional state aid, saying that such an action required a minimum of four approving votes from the seven-member court, and should not be granted on the basis of a 3-to-2 decision.

Five justices were left to decide the case after two justices recused themselves: Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who worked in the Corzine administration when the new school aid formula was developed, and Associate Justice Virginia Long.

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