Interesting New York Times story on a New Jersey judge’s report on the cuts to education made by the governor. The judge said the deep cuts violate the state’s obligation to provide a “a thorough and efficient” education system.
I suspect that similar judicial reviews in other states would also find budget cuts are incompatible with constitutional mandates for adequate educations.
The report by Judge Peter E. Doyne is not binding on the court, but it raises the prospect that the justices could once again order the state to direct more money to poor schools. That would complicate Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to cut spending as the state struggles with its worst fiscal problems in generations.
Shortly after taking office last year, Mr. Christie cut $475 million in school aid from the budget of about $11 billion that was already in place. For the fiscal year that began July 1, he and the Legislature reduced that aid by $820 million from the previous year, or about 8 percent; wealthier districts received no aid. For the coming year, he has proposed a $250 million increase.
The Supreme Court appointed Judge Doyne of Superior Court as a special master to determine whether the actions last year fulfilled the obligations imposed by previous rulings.
“It is clear the state has failed to carry its burden,” Judge Doyne wrote in the report.
“Despite the state’s best efforts, the reductions fell more heavily upon our high-risk districts and the children educated within those districts,” the judge wrote. “The aid reductions have moved many districts further away from adequacy.”
Judge Doyne noted that New Jersey spends far more than most states on education, that it has a budget crisis and that money can be spent unwisely, but that those issues were not part of his inquiry.
The governor’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, responded that “the Supreme Court should at last abandon the failed assumption of the last three decades that more money equals better education and stop treating our state’s fiscal condition as an inconvenient afterthought.”
– From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog