N.J. judge finds deep cuts incompatible with a “thorough” education

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.

According to the Times:

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

21 comments Add your comment

David Sims

March 24th, 2011
10:29 pm

Cuts in police manpower are inconsistent with the public safety, too. But that hasn’t kept them from happening. If there isn’t enough money, then not everything everyone “needs” can be paid for. If you raise taxes, you compel people to forgo the purchase or the use of whatever the higher taxes apply to, unless it’s something that they can’t do without and can’t “cheat” by getting on the sneak.


March 24th, 2011
10:53 pm

I wonder how much of the money NJ spends on education is for actual classroom instruction and how much is for outrageous expenses thanks to the union.


March 25th, 2011
5:54 am

Sounds like Gov Christie needs to cut some judges salaries next…..


March 25th, 2011
7:11 am

Well, no judge in Georgia would issue findings like that, because they know they would be “replaced” for some reason or another. Public education is being gutted yet expected to continue on with all its historical purposes, as well as any other ones we can think to place upon it, with more children with more needs and higher requirements.

Dr NO...

March 25th, 2011
7:17 am

Typical liberals. I wonder how much kick-back and dirty money the unions are funneling to this judge?


March 25th, 2011
8:36 am

“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.”

Really, then, what did he consider?

The bottom line is that government entities have been spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave. Hopefully, this economic recession will force them to get back to basics – but I seriously doubt it.

IMHO, Gov Christie has been doing an admirable job of trying to restore sanity to NJ’s government spending. If Judge Doyle doesn’t like what he is doing, we’ll trade him Gov Deal and throw in Perdue to boot.

Teacher Reader

March 25th, 2011
9:22 am

Catlady, I do not think that public education is being gutted. That is very dramatic.

What is happening is that districts are not getting the funds that they had grown accustomed to in the fat years when revenue was up. School districts spent money like water, never thinking about a rainy day. Salaries got fatter-mostly for administrators, which also grew in number.

The bottom line is that many school districts don’t want to look at how they can truly trim the fat from their budgets. They don’t want to get rid of unnecessary positions or pay people salaries comparable to those in the private sector.

Judges, law makers, school boards, and school superintendents need to realize that they can only raise taxes so much. In many cases in New Jersey teachers start out with very nice salaries that only increase with the number of years that they have worked. Teachers are guaranteed a 3-5% raise each year and have their full health benefits paid for, and their health benefits are some of the best that money can provide. Teachers in New Jersey and other states where unions reside have had furlough days or had retirement money taken away from them, as has been done here in some districts. Maybe salaries will or have been frozen when new contracts come up, but right now they have given up little.

Being from the Jersey area, I have followed Governor Christie closely and admire him for standing his ground, fighting the unions, and realizing that you can’t get water from a stone.

The government does not belong in education. Unions do not belong in education. Until publie education focuses on the children and isn’t thought of a jobs program, the education that our children receive in public school will always be inferior, and the costs of educating the children attending public schools will continue to sky rocket.


March 25th, 2011
9:26 am

Well- if short-sighted and into immediate gratification,perhaps you can see eliminating education support as a way to reline your pockets. But a little common sense says there’s a future past your own very short existence. Education, along with protecting natural resources, is an essential investment in the future of the human race. Your children, grandchildren, all part of you, need education if they are to survive the excesses and appetites that we have adopted and to repair the world they inherited from us. Education funding cuts are easy- there are only weak voices to protest. I think it’s more than time that folks use whatever strength, including the judicial system, to force lawmakers to look beyond the easy targets, address true dregs on our budgets and end lobbyist control of our money and power.


March 25th, 2011
9:27 am

corrrection- if you are short-sighted and …

2nd grade teacher

March 25th, 2011
9:49 am

well said philosopher…well said!

What's best for kids

March 25th, 2011
9:54 am

Cut all positons that have no contact with students on a daily basis (custodians have contact with students, btw). Once that is completed, take stock of how many more millions of dollars are freed up for the schools and the students. Next, allow local schools to control the money that is put into them, and allow the teachers to teach the kids.
Budget problem solved.
Remember when I warned that the RTTT dollars would go to more useless positions that have not contact with students? Go take a looksee at the DOE and note the positions that have been added to the department. So much for streamlining the DOE, huh?

@teacher reader

March 25th, 2011
10:54 am

Something I think the general public fails to understand is that under NCLB, Special Education and the funding required for these students has skyrocketed. While I agree that there is wasteful spending, especially at the county office level, schools are just not operating like they did in pre-NCLB days and it’s important people understand that. If you look at most schools, you will find the Special Education departments are HUGE compared to other departments . . .


March 25th, 2011
1:45 pm

The problem is there is just no more of other people’s money to spend. Cuts must be made. If those in charge care about kids there will not be cuts except from positions that have little to do with kids.

Ole Guy

March 25th, 2011
2:04 pm

I am quite certain the educational systems throughout the Country, during the 30s, were in “dire economic conditions”. Yet, somehow, this generation managed to kickstart the space program, and a few other achievements, the fruits of which we enjoy to this day.


March 25th, 2011
2:24 pm

Amen, Ole Guy- and I ain’t buying the bill of goods about there not being anywhere else to make cuts, either- these are just the easy ones that Big G can sell easily…and if no one’s thinking, makes Big G look like they’re doing something constructive. Well, it’s destructive and short-sighted and our progeny will pay a huge price for it.


March 25th, 2011
2:25 pm

When you have to correct the spelling of your own name… time to quit.


March 25th, 2011
2:51 pm

I guess it’s the in thing to blame educators for the ills of the country. Everyone that’s crying “Amen” to the bash the teacher unions weren’t complaining when money was flowing and contracts were up for negotiation. I don’t hear retirees saying please cut my medicare and social security because money is tight. It’s fine to blame someone else for our problems, but the teachers weren’t putting the state funds in jeopardy, the politicians did, now suddenly, the employees are the problem. Take a look at some of the salaries for regular jobs posed in government, they’re way below market, but have always been balanced by the benefits. Heck, if your employer did that for you, don’t say you wouldn’t take it. Sure, take away things from “then” just don’t dare touch “mine”. Politicians are public employees as well, but I don’t hear them talking about giving up their benefits, especially when they vote for their own pay raises and set salaries for their appointees, even though we the taxpayers continue to support them when they retire. Are you still able to collect 3 pensions when you retire? Bet you can’t! Something is wrong with this picture, and most people are too lazy to fact check the rhetoric.

Just A Teacher

March 25th, 2011
5:00 pm

Thank you, Your Honor. Perhaps if we cut military spending, we could afford to educate our children. The right wing doesn’t even want to consider this alternative. It costs us billions each year to kill people in foreign countries, but politicians don’t seem to care if Johnny can read.


March 25th, 2011
6:42 pm

Money is not the problem in Education. We have plenty of money. Control of the money is made at the local level and everyone on these blogs have power at that level. If you think there are to many administrators and not enough teachers in the classroom then organize and let your local BOE know. If they do not change things then get someone to run against them that believes like you do in the next election, contribute money to them, work on their campaigns, knock on doors and get them elected. To many parents complaining and teachers complaining and not enough action being taken.

I guarantee you that you can take and put 100 kids in a classroom with a first year teacher at a school like Walton and the kids will learn and be productive.


March 25th, 2011
9:16 pm

I guess unfunded mandates never did die huh? Who needs a referendum when you have MARXIST judges!!!

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 26th, 2011
10:24 am

td “I guarantee you that you can take and put 100 kids in a classroom with a first year teacher at a school like Walton and the kids will learn and be productive.”

That is a ridiculous statement, and is the kind of thing that does not help anyone. Even if you put 100 well behaved students in my room, and, by some miracle which is about as likely as my being paid $100,000 a year, not a single one is classified as “English Language Learner” or “Special Needs Inclusion” or “ADD/ADHD with modifications” or “ADD/ADHD non-medicated” or “Aspergers” or “Behavioral Disordered” or “Learning Delayed” or “Dyslexic” or “Gifted,” or unclassified as “child of divorce,” “child who had a pet die,” “child with parent who is ill,” or any of the other numerous events that can affect a child’s need for attention and ability to stay on task, I would still end up with 100 sets of papers to grade each time I gave any kind of assessment. I would still end up with 100 students to try and meet with for individual conferences about their areas of strengths and weaknesses in various subjects. I would still end up with 100 children who need some individual attention and encouragement. Lower educational institutions are not warehouses…they don’t function like colleges and should not treat students like cogs.