The Supreme Court has directed the Appellate Court to quickly decide whether the DOE violated a July 2003 order when it refused to restore millions in previously approved K-12 supplemental programs to the Abbott districts’ final 2003-04 budgets.
On February 5th, the DOE issued “final” budget figures to the districts cutting their budgets — for a second time — by over $124 million, even though both the Supreme Court and Appellate Court has ruled that these cuts are illegal. The NJDOE also acted in the face of the unanimous Appellate Court decision on January 26th directing these programs be restored to the districts’ budgets. At the same time NJDOE issued its latest budget figures, the Attorney General filed a notice with the Supreme Court asking for review of the Appellate Court decision.
On February 9th, the districts filed their own motion with the Appellate Court, for an emergency order to have NJDOE rescind its cuts, and restore the programs to the districts’ final budgets. However, the Appellate Court declined to hear the motion because the Attorney General’s notice tranferred the case to the Supreme Court. The Appellate Court stated that, if allowed by the Supreme Court, it is ready to decide the legality of DOE’s final budget figures.
The latest Supreme Court order clears the way for quick resolution of the case. Even so, Richard Shapiro, attorney for several of the districts said: “I wish the department would direct its attention to complying with court orders and serving the kids in the Abbott districts, rather than figuring out ways to get around those orders.”
David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director, said it is “implausible” that the Supreme Court and Appellate Court would not expect final budgets to be based on the same formula used for initial budgets. “It’s just an outrage,” he said of the NJDOE latest budget maneuver. “All this does is deprive the kids in the Abbott districts of the teachers, staff and programs they need.”
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