In an April 7 letter to the NJ Supreme Court, the Attorney General has advised that the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) will provide all school districts with “expanded State aid notices…[including] the district’s adequacy budget and the maximum amount of aid payable to the district under the SFRA.”
The letter comes in response to a motion filed by Education Law Center on March 27 seeking relief to address the State’s failure to comply with 2009 and 2011 orders in the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation. In those orders, the Court directed the State to operate NJ’s weighted student formula – the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) – to calculate the level of funding needed by each district to provide a “thorough and efficient” education for all students.
In the letter, the Attorney General represents to the Court that new aid notices will be issued to each district “on or about April 28, 2014.” The letter also states the notices “will assist the districts in better understanding their proposed Fiscal year 2015 State aid against the backdrop of the SFRA.”
On April 8, in response to the Attorney General, ELC asked the Court to hold off making any decision until the aid notices are issued later this month. ELC noted that the Attorney General did not commit to notifying districts of the costs, weights and aid amounts under the SFRA that will govern aid calculations in FY15 and FY16.
ELC also advised the Court that State compliance on the aid notices for 2014-15 cannot be determined without an opportunity to review and analyze them.
The State’s failure to run the school funding formula was a major point of concern during the April 3 Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing at which NJDOE Commissioner David Hespe testified. Legislators pressed the newly appointed Commissioner to run the formula and provide the aid notices as required by law. The Commissioner said the State would provide additional information, though he did not offer details at the hearing.
“We’re pleased Commissioner Hespe has indicated a willingness to promptly address the constitutionally deficient notices sent to districts in February,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “We’ll carefully review the re-issued notices to make sure they fully comply with court orders and the SFRA. These notices are critical to parents and legislators as they seek to understand whether proposed State aid levels for 2014-15 will make it possible for districts to meet the needs of their students.”
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