The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state must spend an additional $500 million on public education in 31 historically under-funded districts next year.
The narrow 3-2 decision comes after Republican Governor Chris Christie’s more than $1.3 billion in education cuts to all districts.
Christie’s cuts were the impetus that led the Education Law Center to file suit against the state, arguing that the cuts represented “a deprivation of the constitutional right to a thorough and efficient education to all at-risk children throughout the State.”
The state argued that the fiscal plight of the state was reason enough to restrict funding.
Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia delivered the court’s majority decision saying that Governor Chris Christie’s education cuts needed to be reduced as they represented a “real, substantial, and consequential blow to the achievement of a thorough and efficient system of education.”
“We order that funding to the Abbott districts in FY 2012 must be calculated and provided in accordance with the (School Funding Reform Act) SFRA formula. In making the calculation for FY 2012, the formula must adjust to correct the State’s failure to provide SFRA’s statutory level of formula funding to those districts during FY 2011,” the court’s decision stated.
While criticizing the court for deciding how taxpayer money is to be spent, Christie said he would not fight the order, instead leaving it up to the legislature to decide where to find the money.
“I intend to comply with the Supreme Court’s order,” Christie said at a news conference after the decision. “The constitutional ball is now in the Legislature’s court.”