Newark, New Jersey — July 18, 2006

The NJ Department of Education refuses to make public a 2003 study of the cost of providing a thorough and efficient education to all New Jersey public school students, prompting ELC to file suit yesterday to obtain its release before planned discussion on school funding begins in the Legislature in August.

In 2003, the NJDOE completed an in-depth, comprehensive study of the cost of educating public school students in districts throughout New Jersey, including low-income students, students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The cost study utilized two well-established methods of analyzing education costs: the “professional judgment” and “successful schools” techniques. The NJDOE then updated the results of the cost study every year since 2004.

To assist NJDOE staff in performing the cost study, the State retained John Augenblick, a Denver-based school finance expert who has worked on education cost studies in numerous states. The NJDOE paid Mr. Augenblick at least $105,000 to work on the study.

Various education stakeholders, including ELC, participated in the “professional judgment” cost method, giving the NJDOE their opinions and advice on the inputs and resources necessary to educate students to meet State academic standards. The NJDOE never released the study after its completion in 2003, despite numerous requests from groups who participated in the study.

ELC recently filed a formal request for the cost study under the Open Public Records Act, which the NJDOE denied, claiming the study was “deliberative” in nature. Following intervention by the Attorney General’s office, over 300 pages of the study were sent to ELC, but all of the data and other factual information were blacked-out.

ELC is seeking to have the cost study released before the Legislature begins discussion and debate about school funding, as planned for an upcoming special legislative session to begin later this summer. Other states that have undertaken education cost studies, such as Maryland, have released these studies to the public.

“There is no legal justification for keeping this taxpayer-funded study secret,” said Koren Bell, ELC Attorney. “In fact, the public has an interest in its full public disclosure, in light of the importance of providing equitable and adequate resources to all New Jersey students, and the ongoing debate about how to fund our public schools.”

“We’re disappointed we have to go to court for this cost study. It should have been released a long time ago,” she added.

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Kori Bell
Staff Attorney/Skadden Fellow
email: kbell@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x27

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240