A Superior Court judge last week ordered the New Jersey Department of Education to turn over state funding data and formula codes to six Jersey Shore school districts. This information could illuminate how state tax dollars are distributed among roughly 600 districts statewide. This order was the latest development in the districts’ battle since 2019 to challenge the elimination of temporary adjustment aid that they had been receiving when the current formula had originally been enacted in 2008.
The districts claim that the recent state aid cuts that they and other districts had experienced since the temporary adjustments were eliminated failed to account for increasing populations of students with special needs and growing numbers of English-language learners. The formulas also did not account for declines in property values, they asserted, particularly in towns like Brick and Toms River that were devastated by superstorm Sandy.
The recent case claimed that the department violated New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act and the common law right of access to public records when it failed to turn over coding documents used to calculate state aid to individual districts.
In January 2021, the Superior Court had ordered the Department of Education to turn over its algorithm code for aid to the Jersey Shore districts. But the districts went back to court last July to seek additional data that they said was needed to make sense of the algorithm was not released by the Department of Education.
By accessing the formula, the districts hope to prove their argument that the funding formula is not appropriating state aid in a fair and consistent manner.