February 7, 1997 – Complaint filed in NJ Superior Court on behalf of seventeen districts seeking a determination that the current school funding formula, the Comprehensive Educational Improvement and Financing Act (CIEFA), was unconstitutional as applied to them.

February 6, 1998 – Case transferred to Commissioner of Education with the direction that the complaint serve as the basis for a petition of appeal to Commissioner.

March 2, 1998 – Petition of appeal in the form of an amended complaint filed with Commissioner on behalf of the seventeen districts that initiated the litigation in Superior Court. In addition, three other school districts joined in the matter.

May 4, 1998 – Petitioners filed second amended complaint setting forth allegations relating to conditions of poverty in the petitioning districts and seeking relief in the form of a ruling that each plaintiff district was a “special needs district” that was being inadequately funded under CEIFA, and a directive that each district receive funding equal to that available to students in the wealthiest districts. The State moved to dismiss. Petitioners filed third amended petition adding individual students from the petitioning districts as plaintiffs. State again moved to dismiss.

December 3, 1999 – By letter, Commissioner denied motion to dismiss as to Lakewood, Salem City and Wallington. Commissioner transmitted the petition as it pertained to those districts to the Office of Administrative Law for hearings but directed further submissions relating to the other seventeen districts.

February 24, 2000 – Commissioner issued a letter denying State’s motion to dismiss as to the seventeen districts.

April 18, 2000 – By letter, Commissioner notified parties that he was transmitting the file as a multiple matter concerning twenty school districts. However, prior to the hearing, the Lower Township, Lower Cape May Regional and South River school districts withdrew.

December 26, 2000 – Administrative Law Judge issued an initial decision in which he found that “each petitioning district had established by a preponderance of the credible evidence that it is using CEIFA funding appropriately and is entitled to proceed to the next phase of hearing.”

February 9, 2001 – Commissioner concurred with Administrative Law Judge. Commissioner also held that in order to prevail in the second phase of hearing, a district was required to first prove that educational deficiencies existed and then show that such deficiencies could not be remedied under current law and funding levels by different programmatic and fiscal choices. The seventeen cases were returned to the Office of Administrative Law where they were heard by the Administrative Law Judge. Each Bacon district was seeking to be designated a “special needs district,” which would entitle them to be funded like the districts designated as “Abbott” under CEIFA.

September 23, 2002 – Administrative Law Judge found that the Buena Regional, Commercial, Fairfield, Salem City and Woodbine school districts had proven that they were Special Needs Districts and recommended to the Commissioner that they be funded accordingly. He found that the other twelve districts had not.

February 10, 2003 – Commissioner adopted the Administrative Law Judge determinations with respect to the other twelve districts but rejected the Administrative Law Judge’s determinations that Buena, Commercial, Fairfield and Woodbine had proven that each was a Special Needs District.  Commissioner concurred that Salem was a Special Needs District and recommended to the Legislature that Salem be added to the list of Abbott districts. Commissioner found that the other sixteen districts had not demonstrated that CEIFA funding was insufficient to enable them to provide a thorough and efficient education.

February 24, 2003 – Lakewood school district filed notice of appeal to State Board.

March 5, 2003 – Buena, Clayton, Commercial, Egg Harbor, Fairfield, Lakehurst, Lawrence, Maurice River and Woodbine school districts filed notice of appeal. Commercial and Maurice River subsequently withdrew their appeals.

January 4, 2006 – State Board issued a final decision, reversing the Commissioner’s decision, concluding that in the Bacon districts:

  • there were widespread and systemic deficiencies in the curriculum, course offerings, instructional programs and performance outcomes;
  • students had special needs arising from intense poverty, similar to those of their counterparts in poorer, urban “Abbott” districts, and these needs were not being met under CEIFA funding formula;
  • students “are not being afforded a thorough and efficient education,” and the CEIFA formula was unconstitutional as applied to Bacon districts; and
  • Commissioner should promptly “develop a design for a needs assessment” and submit the design and a timetable for conducting the needs assessments by May 1, 2006.

February 1, 2006 – Commissioner granted 90-day extension to complete needs assessments.

May 18, 2006 – Commissioner failed to conduct needs assessments so districts filed motion with State Board asking for: a) issuance of an order compelling Commissioner to perform needs assessments, and b) immediate declaration that the Bacon districts were entitled to “special needs” Abbott remedies.

May 26, 2006 – Commissioner issued report declining to perform needs assessments, stating that the Bacon districts could wait, along with all of the other districts in the State, for expected executive and legislative action on the new funding formula for educational aid then being developed by the administration.

July 19, 2006 – State Board denied appellants’ motion seeking an order to force the Commissioner to perform needs assessments, and appellants filed an appeal.

January 11, 2006 – Appeal to Appellate Division of the Superior Court by Buena Regional, Clayton, Egg Harbor City, Fairfield, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Lawrence and Woodbine school districts. Districts claimed CEIFA was unconstitutional as applied to them and sought immediate, remedial relief comparable to Abbotts: parity funding, facilities funding and universal preschool.

January 13, 2008 – School Funding Reform Act enacted (SFRA). The SFRA repealed CEIFA and put in place a new, weighted student funding formula to be applied to all districts statewide, including the Bacon districts.

March 14, 2008Appellate Division affirmed State Board’s decision, finding that Plaintiffs had “demonstrated a constitutional deprivation” that was “unchallenged” by the State, as well as “an inability through local taxation” to raise sufficient funds to support a constitutional education. The Court ordered Commissioner to “proceed forthwith to design and perform a needs assessment of each of the Bacon districts, to be completed within six months,” and to then “determine whether, in light of the proven educational deficits already found by the Board,” the SFRA’s “remedial measures afford students in the Bacon districts the thorough and efficient education to which they are constitutionally entitled.”

September 14, 2009Needs assessments for each of the Bacon districts released by Department of Education. The needs assessments identified numerous deficiencies across the districts but made clear that the K-12 school aid provided to the Bacon districts under the SFRA formula would address the identified deficiencies in educational programs and services. The needs assessments also concluded that, under the SFRA, the Bacon districts would receive funding to implement well-planned, high quality preschool for all three- and four-year-olds in the districts, an expansion of the “Abbott preschool program.”

2008-2010 – Following enactment of the SFRA, the Bacon districts received increases in K-12 State aid for 2008-09 and 2009-10, as required by the formula.  

2010-11 – SFRA aid was cut from all districts’ budgets, eliminating the increases from the first two years of the formula’s operation.

August 29, 2011 – Appellants filed a motion in aid of litigants’ rights seeking an order enjoining State defendant from providing State school funding aid to the Bacon districts in 2011-12 at levels less than aid levels required by SFRA.

January 13, 2012 – Motion denied.

July 28, 2014 – Bacon Plaintiffs submitted letter to NJ Attorney General demanding funding in 2014-15 in accordance with the SFRA and the implementation of “Abbott” preschool for all three- and four-year-olds residing in their communities.

September 2014 – Districts return to court seeking to enforce the 2009 decisions by the State Education Commissioner mandating that the districts receive K-12 funding and high quality preschool under SFRA.

December 2014 – Superior Court judge grants the State’s motion to dismiss the case.

January 2015 – Districts appeal the Superior Court decision.

September 2015 – Oral argument is held in the Appellate Division.