Education Law Center (ELC) has filed an amicus brief in support of the 16 poor rural districts represented in the longstanding case, Bacon v. NJ Department of Education. The districts recently returned to court to obtain full funding under the State’s school aid formula.
ELC, represented by co-counsel Gibbons P.C., participated in the Bacon case when it was before the State Board of Education six years ago. The current motion brought by the “Bacon” districts requests that the NJ Superior Court, Appellate Division, order full funding of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) for students in those districts.
In 2009, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) determined through court-ordered needs assessments that the new aid formula would provide adequate resources for the districts to provide their predominantly low-income students with a thorough and efficient education. With the underfunding of the SFRA in FY11 and FY12, students in the Bacon districts did not receive the level of funding deemed adequate by the NJDOE and the Appellate Court.
The amicus brief contains information provided by Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC Research Director. Dr. Farrie calculated the amount of State aid the Bacon districts are entitled to receive under the SFRA and found that “underfunding for fourteen of the sixteen Bacon districts for FY 2012 totals $19.2 million.” One district, Hammonton, was underfunded by more than $6 million.
Dr. Farrie also examines the need for high quality preschool for three- and four-year olds in the Bacon districts. Noting that the SFRA includes expansion of the high quality Abbott preschool program to all low-income children throughout the state, Dr. Farrie estimates that, under the SFRA, the Bacon districts should receive funding for 2,167 full-day preschool seats for eligible children.
“Students in these rural districts have been deprived of the resources needed to succeed academically, including high quality preschool,” said Elizabeth Athos, the ELC Senior Attorney who submitted the brief. “Instead of fighting this case in court, the State should make a commitment to fully fund these districts, and expand preschool, in the FY13 budget. That would be real education reform.”
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