Education spending in New Jersey is the highest in the nation. Yet, Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne rules Christie’s budget cuts left N.J. schools unable to provide ‘thorough and efficient’ education

Gov. Chris Christie’s deep cuts to state school aid last year left New Jersey’s schools unable to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to the state’s nearly 1.4 million school children, a Superior Court judge found today.

Judge Peter Doyne, who was appointed as special master in the long-running Abbott vs. Burke school funding case, today issued an opinion that also found the reductions “fell more heavily upon our high risk districts and the children educated within those districts.”

“Despite spending levels that meet or exceed virtually every state in the country, and that saw a significant increase in spending levels from 2000 to 2008, our ‘at risk’ children are now moving further from proficiency,” he said.

The Abbott vs. Burke case landed back in court after the Education Law Center, a Newark-based school advocacy group, filed a motion charging that Christie’s aid cuts violated the state’s school funding formula.

Christie slashed state aid by $820 million last year, and Doyne found that altogether, the state would have needed twice that much — $1.6 billion — to fully fund the School Funding Reform Act formula.

“The difficulty in addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis and its constitutionally mandated obligation to educate our children requires an exquisite balance not easily attained,” Doyne wrote. “Something need be done to equitably address these competing imperatives. That answer, though, is beyond the purview of this report. For the limited question posed to the Master, it is clear the State has failed to carry its burden.”

The finding now goes back to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which can choose to act on it.

Triumph of the Letter of the Law vs. Common Sense

Clearly Judge Peter Doyne’s ruling this is a triumph of the letter of a poorly written law vs. common sense. If the issue was money, New Jersey would have the best schools in the nation.

Since the issue is not money, money cannot fix the problem. The easiest solution is for the N.J. legislature to trash the “School Funding Reform Act formula”.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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