The Lakewood Board of Education yesterday filed “Exceptions” with the New Jersey Commissioner of Education with regard to the case entitled “Alcantara,” which involves what many in Lakewood consider to be the failure of the State Legislature to provide appropriate funding to the unique Lakewood school district, as opposed to continuous loans which now total more than $100 million.
The Initial Decision was issued on March 1, 2021 by Administrative Law Judge Susan M. Scarola after being filed more than 7 years ago.
The Judge concluded that the Lakewood School District failed to provide the public school students of Lakewood a “Thorough and Efficient (T&E) Education” yet, the ALJ despite the New Jersey Department of Education acknowledging in writing in response to an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) filed by General Counsel Michael Inzelbuch, Esq., that only with yearly loans in the millions can the District continue to operate, as the funding formula is clearly not appropriate as applied to Lakewood.
“First and foremost, I want to applaud Arthur Lang for filing this legal case in 2014 with little support. As to the Decision of the Judge, simply put, it is absurd,” Inzelbuch told TLS.
“The Judge herself, in July 2019, told me all who were listening in the courtroom that the giving of Loans to Lakewood every year is nothing but a Ponzi scheme, that is, a game of shifting monies that all know Lakewood cannot pay back. In addition, while the district is still operating, it is only because of loans that all know Lakewood can’t pay back.”
As to the District not providing a “T&E” education, Inzelbuch said, “Ridiculous. Test scores are up; SAT scores are up; Attendance is up. The District is now rated as a ‘high performing district’ by the State. The District for 2 years in a row has not been in deficit for the 2 years in question. In addition, the District’s business office for the first time in many years has zero negative audit findings. All because of unsustainable loans.
“But, c’mon,” Inzelbuch continued. “We are providing more than any other urban District in New Jersey with a lot less money per student. However, unless and until the funding formula is fixed we will run out of money and soon be in debt more than we even get from the State.”
The case now goes to the Commissioner of Education for review.
“The Commissioner and her Department [of Education] will be hard-pressed to say that the funding formula is OK. It is not. Why else would the State provide millions of dollars of loans annually to Lakewood? Also, the Department has told Lakewood, me, and the State Monitors, that the New Jersey Department of Education agrees that a Legislative fix is needed. However, it appears to me that politics may have stood in the way until now. But I remain hopeful.”