Newark, NJ – December 11, 2007
The New Jersey Appellate Court today ordered NJDOE to release to the public a 2003 memo containing alternative formulas for funding New Jersey’s public schools. The memo has been at the center of a lawsuit – filed by ELC, on behalf of the Abbott students – to obtain public access to a research study NJDOE undertook five years ago to help it develop a proposal for a new school-funding formula. Today’s decision , which came down just hours before the State is set to reveal its long-awaited school funding proposal, is a resounding victory for the Abbott schoolchildren. It is also a victory for all New Jersey residents who have a stake in the ongoing debate over how to fund our public schools.
“School funding is an issue of vital importance to the Abbott schoolchildren, to other students across the State, and to New Jersey taxpayers. Today’s decision marks a critical step towards ensuring New Jersey residents access to information that will enable meaningful public participation in the process by which the State enacts a new school funding formula,” said David Sciarra, Director of ELC.
ELC is also calling on Governor Corzine to release all other documents, studies, expert analyses, and data regarding the development of his school funding proposal, scheduled for release tomorrow. “The entire process of developing the new formula has been cloaked in secrecy,” said Mr. Sciarra, “It’s time to lift the veil and allow the public full access to all of the records on the development of the formula.”
ELC Senior Staff Attorney Elizabeth Athos stated, “As we await the formal release of the Governor’s new school funding proposal, we stand ready to work with the State, the Legislature, and other concerned citizens to ensure that the school funding formula ultimately enacted provides adequate and equitable funding for all New Jersey students.”
The Court’s decision today comes after one and one half years of litigation by ELC under the State’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to obtain the public release of DOE’s research study on the cost and funding of a constitutionally adequate education. In two decisions, on October 6, 2006 and February 22, 2007, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ordered the release of many of the documents ELC sought from DOE’s Study, including the 2003 memo at issue in today’s decision. As a direct result of the litigation, DOE also voluntarily released thousands of additional pages of documents from the Study. Judge Feinberg’s Order requiring the release of the 2003 memo was the only ruling that NJDOE appealed – an application that eventually lead to the Court’s decision today.
ELC is represented in this litigation by Eric Alan Stone and Koren L. Bell of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra, Esq.
voice: 973 624-1815 x16
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications