Bacon v. NJ Department of Education is a long-running case involving 16 poor, rural districts, many of them located in the southern portion of the state. Since 1997, these districts have demanded adequate resources to meet the needs of student populations characterized by intense poverty, high mobility rates and other challenges associated with high needs schools.
In 2008, the Appellate Court affirmed a State Board of Education determination that the Bacon districts were unable to provide a thorough and efficient education for their students under the current school funding formula. After introduction of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), also in 2008, the NJ Department of Education determined that the new school aid formula would provide the Bacon districts with the resources they required. The SFRA would also entitle these districts to the high quality Abbott preschool program for all three- and four-year-olds.
Initially, the Bacon districts received increased funding under the SFRA, but massive underfunding of the formula eliminated these increases. In addition, preschool expansion under the SFRA was never implemented. As a result, the districts determined that further action was necessary and in September 2014, they returned 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 the SFRA. A Superior Court judge granted the State’s motion to dismiss, and the districts appealed that decision. Oral argument was held in the Appellate Division on September 30, 2015, and a decision is expected within a few weeks.