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Inquirer Editorial: Poor schools need more

Gov. Christie doesn’t need to wait for another state Supreme Court ruling to adequately fund New Jersey’s poorest schools.

The appointed special master in New Jersey’s decades-long school funding case ruled last week that $1 billion in school-aid cuts made by the Christie administration last year meant poor students weren’t being provided the “thorough and efficient education” mandated by the state constitution.

In a 96-page ruling last week, Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne concluded that poor children in high-risk districts such as Camden were especially hard-hit by the funding shortfall. The state Supreme Court now must weigh in, since Doyne’s opinion is nonbinding.

The high court years ago decided in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case that the state must provide adequate funding to improve poor, failing school districts.

Previous rulings required the state to give extra aid to 31 mostly urban districts to put their spending on par with wealthier districts. As a result, these so-called Abbott districts were receiving more than half of the state’s annual education funding.

That was until a more equitable funding formula was approved by the state Supreme Court in 2008, which allowed the state to treat all public school districts generally the same, but give additional funding to low-income districts.

The new formula had great potential, but the state, due to budget woes, has not funded poor schools as it should under Christie or former Gov. Jon Corzine.

The Education Law Center, representing the poor districts, challenged the funding cuts. It argued in court that the state’s budget cuts have perpetuated a system of have and have-not districts.

Doyne agreed that the budget cuts had disproportionately affected high-risk districts with the neediest students. He said 36 percent, or 205 districts out of 560, were not adequately funded in the current fiscal year. Those districts have 72 percent of the state’s “at-risk” students.

To fully fund districts according to the formula, the state must come up with an additional $1.6 billion. Christie argues that his cuts were made equitably. But that’s not the point. Poor schools require additional funding because their needs are greater.

Charters and vouchers are Christie’s preferred routes to education reform. But he can’t ignore the needs of students who aren’t in those programs. It shouldn’t take another court ruling to get him to reassess his priorities and adequately fund poor schools.

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Judge says Christie’s school budget cuts violated constitution, fell heavily on high-risk districts

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s cutbacks in school funding violate the state’s mandate to provide children “a thorough and efficient” education, a court-appointed Special Master declared today in a finding that could force the governor to come up with millions more for schools. (more…)

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Braun: N.J. Supreme Court to take its turn on deciding constitutionality of Christie’s school funding

TRENTON — The decision by Judge Peter Doyne was clear: Gov. Chris Christie failed to comply with the state Constitution by cutting school aid by $1.6 billion. The implication for the future also is clear: New Jersey is heading for a constitutional showdown of historic proportions.

“The lines have never been so sharply drawn,” said Paul Tractenberg, a Rutgers law professor who has devoted his long career to the intersection of education and constitutional law. “Clearly, we are at the orange, if not the red, warning level light.” (more…)

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Big blunder cost New Jersey teachers years of goodwill

By Kevin Manahan
The Star-Ledger

Kevin Stinson, a high school social studies teacher in Leonia, protested Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts during Saturday’s protest in Trenton.My father spent nearly his entire career in public relations at AT&T, so he was always dispensing advice on how to handle personal crises, big and small. And when I would come home from my high school job of stocking shelves at King’s Supermarket, complaining about some ungracious customer, he would remind me: (more…)

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Student Walk Out Is A Disgrace

By Steve Adubato
NJvoices.com

This past week, thousands of students across the state walked out of class to protest Governor Chris Christie’s state aid cuts to education. Chanting “Christie has to go”, and holding signs up saying “protect educations”, students from Newark, West Orange, Montclair, as well as others in South Orange, Mount Holly, Maplewood and Vorhees, walked out of class, screamed and yelled, made the governor the big, bad boogie man, and basically pulled a Howard Beale from the movie “Network” saying; “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.”

Some have lauded the students for showing concern about civic matters, particularly their own education. I get that part and, yes, it is kind of nice that they do care. But there are so many things about this recent student protest that are that concern me.
(more…)

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Mapping a new path for state schools

April 19, 2010
By JASON METHOD
The Asbury Park Press

Education Commissioner Bret Schundler offers different models for success

Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed $820 million in cuts to local education have dominated news coverage of his proposed budget as school districts wrestle with the prospect of layoffs, tax increases or other dramatic steps. On the eve of this week’s school elections, Gannett New Jersey sat down with Education Commissioner Bret Schundler to get his thoughts on the current situation and his vision for schools in New Jersey. (more…)

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Schools walk fiscal tightrope

February 21, 2010
By BARBARA S. ROTHSCHILD
The Courier-Post

Find a way to make do.

That is the message Gov. Chris Christie is sending to school districts, including those in South Jersey that stand to lose up to $8 million in state funds for the remainder of the fiscal year as the governor seeks to close a $2.2 billion gap in New Jersey’s budget. (more…)

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Christie taking $60 million from area school districts

By ERIC SCOTT CAMPBELL
The Press of Atlantic City

Southern New Jersey school districts will lose $59.9 million in state aid during the remainder of the school year, as part of a budget-cutting initiative Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday.

In a special address to the Legislature, Christie said he will reduce aid to the state’s school districts by $475 million, which is the amount that districts will have to spend from surplus funds they already have instead of saving them for next year. (more…)

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