BOE: Districts and Students Consider Appeal of Dismissal of Bacon Case

lhs1The attorneys for students and sixteen New Jersey school districts, including the Lakewood School District, are considering an appeal of the dismissal of its lawsuit which sought an additional $18.5 million in education funding and expanded preschool programs, the BOE told TLS today. Education Law Center represents the students and Millville attorney Fred Jacob is counsel to the school districts in the case.

The BOE stated: The latest complaint, filed before Judge Mary Jacobson in Mercer County, is an extension of a matter originally filed in 1998, named the “Bacon Litigation” for its lead Plaintiff, in which Lakewood and the other school districts claimed that the State’s funding to these districts was inadequate and did not allow the districts to provide a thorough and efficient education to their students as required by the New Jersey Constitution.  In 2006, the State Board of Education agreed with the Plaintiffs as did the Appellate Court in 2008 after the matter was appealed.  As a result, the Appellate Court sent the case to the Commissioner of Education to determine whether the newly enacted School Funding Reform Act (“SFRA”) provided the funding required to fix the constitutional violation.

In 2009, the State Education Commissioner issued “needs assessments” of each district and held that the SFRA would address the districts’ financial needs so as to improve the education for all students.  The State also provided additional funding to the Plaintiff school districts including Lakewood without cuts to courtesy bussing.  However, due to budget cuts and the economic climate at the time, the additional funding to the affected districts was eliminated in 2011.

The complaint filed by the students and districts in September of this year sought to enforce the Commissioner’s 2009 determination that funding under the SFRA formula provides a remedy for the inadequate funding found to exist by the State Board in 2006.  However, Judge Jacobson dismissed the case because she found that the “needs assessments” that were conducted by the Department of Education in each of the school districts did not contain language explicit enough to grant the funding relief sought by the Plaintiffs.

According to Education Law Center, “Judge Jacobson’s decision was technical, rather than substantive, in nature.  It was based on court rules, and she made no finding based on the underlying issues. However, she was unwilling to grant the relief requested through a summary proceeding, without a record of what has happened in [the] districts since the 2009 needs assessment.”  ELC also noted that the 2009 needs assessments did not require Lakewood to give up courtesy bussing in order to obtain funding relief in the Bacon litigation.  In fact, the needs assessment did not make receipt of funding contingent on this or any other issue.



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  1. I offer a correction to this article with a quote from the NJ Supreme Court to prove that Lakewood did not get extra funding because of Bacon. Every district in NJ, from Abbott or Bacon to even the lighthouse DFG J districts, got full SFRA funding in 2009 and 2010.

    “We granted the State relief from those remedial [court] orders that bound it to the parity [to lighthouse district spending] remedy for the pupils from Abbott districts, and authorized the State to implement in Abbott districts SFRA’s level of funding. It is now undisputed that the State has failed to fully fund SFRA in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.” Abbott XXI (2011).

    The full funding in 2009 and 2010 had nothing to do with Abbott or Bacon. When the SFRA was not fully funded in 2011 the ELC went back to court in Abbott XXI and in Bacon to get funding for its plaintiffs’ districts over and above the lower funding provided to all other districts. It won in Abbott.

  2. I emailed the superintendent on March 31, 2008:

    “I think we have a good case. I was in contact with xxxx at the Education Law Center in Newark. She thought we had a good case. They are the group that brought the Abbott case. Although a school funding case could take years, it is worth a try. In my opinion (and I think a lot of people agree), inadequate state funding is the main financial problem we have.”

    We all thought that Lakewood lost in Bacon.

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