Gov Chris Christie’s fiscal 2011 budget , which slashed nearly $1 billion in school aid, failed to provide state schools the resources needed under the state’s funding formula, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Peter Doyne ruled that the cuts enacted under Christie’s first budget failed to provide a “thorough and efficient” education for students and that the neediest students were hit hardest.
Doyne, who was appointed special master in the long running school funding dispute, said while the case raised several questions about education and fair funding, his goal was only to determine if the cuts allowed the state to provide the quality of education required by the state constitution.
“For the limited question posed to this Master, it is clear the State has failed to carry its burden,” he wrote.
The case was brought by the Education Law Center, which filed suit claiming the budget cuts violated the state’s school funding formula put in place in 2008.
Doyne’s findings will now go back to the Supreme Court.
Steve Baker, spokesperson for the New Jersey Education Association, said Tuesday that the master’s report provides vindication to the union’s position that the Christie Administration had not been living up to its constitutional obligation of providing all students a “thorough and efficient” education.
“It vindicates what we’ve been saying since the governor proposed his budget last year,” Baker said in a telephone interview. “It hurts our children, it hurts our public schools, and it’s made it more difficult to provide the level of quality education that our students deserve and our parents expect.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. said in a statement that the report affirms the need for outcomes-based education reforms.
“Judge Doyne’s report proves that money is not the problem for chronically failing school districts in New Jersey,” Kean said in a release.
“His assertion that the former Abbott districts are moving ‘further from proficiency’ despite spending more per pupil than almost every other state in America is a condemnation of education policies that favor money over accountability and innovation.”
“What state government and the education establishment have been doing in New Jersey isn’t working for students in failing districts. To respond by throwing more taxpayer dollars at the problem would be the definition of insanity and is unlikely to improve the education of a single student.”
“Judge Doyne’s report should serve as a wake-up call to the Legislature that now is the time to act on outcomes-based education reforms that reward the best teachers, easily remove bad teachers from the classroom, and holds each district accountable for student achievement.”
Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), Camden, said in a statement that the special master’s findings showed how the governor’s budget overburdened taxpayers and endangered education.
“The fact that the greatest impact of the governor’s cut was felt by at-risk students is, unfortunately, more evidence his budget did not include his oft-touted shared sacrifice,” he said in a release.