Education Law Center as ‘Brainless Cult’? New Jerseyans Weigh In on Feds’ Rejection of Murphy’s School Aid Allocations

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Yesterday Education Law Center celebrated the news that the U.S. Education Department has ordered the Murphy Administration to increase state allocations for Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 to districts that once couldn’t afford the cost of “thorough and efficient” public education because they had low tax bases and many students who qualified for free and reduced lunch (FRL). If NJ doesn’t restore the funding it will risk losing New Jersey’s $2.8 billion in stimulus funds for K-12 schools.

Various fiscal experts have since weighed in on the Feds’ rejection of NJ’s allocations, which reflect a years-long effort to provide more equitable state funding to both districts once labeled “Abbotts” that no longer require compensatory education money due to soaring tax bases and to districts not on the original “Abbott” list that now lack enough local tax dollars (their “Local Fair Share,” or LFS) to provide students with their constitutionally-mandated “thorough and efficient” education system. (Here’s an Explainer of how NJ funds schools.)

First, NJER contributor StateAidGuy comments that the original Abbott list (now 31 years old) was inherently flawed and the US ED order will hamper NJ’s efforts to fairly fund underaided districts that never made the Abbott list:

The US ED order also stunts NJ’s ability to stop over-funding districts:

Brian McCaskill weights in:

Yet, of course, Seaside Park will gain $173 million in state aid due to the US ED decision heralded by Education Law Center. Says StateAidGuy, “Giving money to ultra-rich districts is a representation of how the Education Law Center is a brainless cult and also of the incompetence and ignorance of Congress and, frankly, the Biden administration.”

Why?

Others, however, rejoiced at the US ED’s decision:

And last night Senate President Steve Sweeney put out this statement in response to the decision by the U.S. Department of Education undermining the school funding law put in place to provide full and equitable funding to New Jersey’s schools:

This is an unfortunate decision that undermines the ability of the state to provide full and equitable funding to every school district in New Jersey. The 2018 school funding reform law corrected longstanding inequities that penalized districts with growing enrollment or increased need like Newark, Paterson and Woodbridge. This decision could put funding for these and other school districts at risk.

“The phase-in of the new school funding formula under S2 started two years before the pandemic and was on track to provide equitable funding to all districts within the next three years. New Jersey more than met the intent of the federal ‘maintenance of equity’ standard by increasing state aid to education by more than $800 million, benefiting both students and taxpayers.

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