NJ Supreme Court to Christie: Spend more money

posted at 6:05 pm on May 24, 2011 by Tina Korbe

The New Jersey Supreme Court today decided Gov. Chris Christie and state legislators must spend more money — specifically, $500 million more — to meet a constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of free education for elementary through high school students in the state.

The case was the 21st in a series of cases about school funding in the state of New Jersey. With this decision, the court continued the pattern it set in previous cases — a pattern of prescribing the amount of education funding the state owes students.

As Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino explains, “This is just another hit in a long string of cases wherein New Jersey’s highest court has taken on the role of judiciary, appropriator and chief executive.” She continues:

In the Abbott v. Burke line of cases, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that it has the authority to determine what level of funding satisfies the constitution’s requirement of a thorough and efficient system and to order the state to spend more if the court is not satisfied. One would have to re-read Justice Blackmun’s opinion in Roe v. Wade to find a greater example of incoherence and willful judging masked as legal analysis.

Severino is right. The court’s decision makes no sense. As the New Jersey administration argued in the case, appropriations power — including the power to establish school funding levels — actually belongs to the legislature.

But the state Supreme Court dismissed that argument:

The State seeks, through the legislative power over appropriations, to diminish the Abbott districts’ pupils’ right to funding required for their receipt of a thorough and efficient education. … In such cases, the State may not use the appropriations power as a shield to its responsibility.

It’s fine for the court to affirm students’ right to an effective education. The New Jersey constitution provides for that. But the court says students have a “right to funding” — and not just funding, but a specific dollar amount. Essentially, the court equates a certain amount of funding with a quality education.

But that disregards an important reality. The facts show more money doesn’t necessarily mean a higher quality education. The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke explains:

Unfortunately, no correlation has been found between [government spending] growth and increases in academic achievement. While the federal role in education has ballooned over the decades—and federal per-pupil expenditures have tripled—academic achievement, graduation rates, and our international competitiveness have languished.

New Jersey is no exception. The state spends more education dollars per pupil than any other state in the country, but is far from the top in academic achievement, Burke said.

According to Fred Giordano, a partner at K & L Gates in New Jersey, 20 years of court rulings in earlier Abbott cases have led to increased funding for the so-called Abbott districts — but achievement has not kept pace. The performance discrepancy remains between Abbott districts and other school districts in the state — suggesting its cause might be something other than funding.

“If we really wanted to help the students in the Abbott districts, we would give them more flexibility to take their money where they see fit,” Burke says. “We’re seeing all of this exciting movement toward school choice throughout the country, but then, in New Jersey, you have a Supreme Court saying, ‘Let’s continue in the status quo by throwing more money at the problem.’ It’s frustrating.”

Meanwhile, the state of New Jersey simply can’t afford this decision. Complying with earlier Abbott court rulings cost New Jersey taxpayers more than $37 billion between 1998 and 2008 alone, according to a Federalist Society white paper.

The decision is fishy for another reason, as well. The Court’s decision came on the strength of a swing vote of a justice temporarily assigned to the Court with neither the governor’s approval nor the advice and consent of the state senate, Giordano said.

Giordano sums it all up:

The decision is not surprising given the long line of Abbott cases, but disregards the state’s fiscal problems and the substantial evidence that the increased spending the Court had mandated in its Abbott decisions have failed to produce results commensurate with these expenditures.


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And if Christie doesn’t cough up the dough, then what?

Aitch748 on May 24, 2011 at 6:08 PM

“thorough and efficient”

“thorough and efficient”? How vague.

portlandon on May 24, 2011 at 6:10 PM

Today’s judges believe tha they have an Imperial Court. They are appointed, not elected, but their egotism dictates that they can rule unabated.

Judicial reform has to be the next issue for Congress to investigate.

savvydude on May 24, 2011 at 6:10 PM

The Court’s decision came on the strength of a swing vote of a justice temporarily assigned to the Court with neither the governor’s approval nor the advice and consent of the state senate, Giordano said.

Just a coincidence. Those things happen from time to time.

a capella on May 24, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Not a big fan of Christie but I support any pushback on his part. He just needs to tell them no, and ignore their directive. This sort of intervention not only in social policy but intruding into the legislative branches has gone much too far.

sharrukin on May 24, 2011 at 6:11 PM

well then. There you have it. The court redefines its role …just like that….

ted c on May 24, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Just insane.

WisCon on May 24, 2011 at 6:13 PM

In other words, the activist judiciary doesn’t like that Christie has dealt setbacks to union hegemony.

amerpundit on May 24, 2011 at 6:13 PM

If the state Constitution guarantees “thorough and efficient education”, why is a teacher’s union allowed?

malclave on May 24, 2011 at 6:15 PM

If the NJ Supreme Court is going to start setting fiscal policy, then the Governor should start writing and passing his own legislation and the Legislature should start hearing court cases.

Pass your purview on the left hand side.

Left Coast Right Mind on May 24, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Ward heelers are in power, from the WH on down.

Schadenfreude on May 24, 2011 at 6:19 PM

As the New Jersey administration argued in the case, appropriations power — including the power to establish school funding levels — actually belongs to the legislature.

Received my NDEA-teacher’s union rag-last week.
A message from the NDEA President lamented the fact that here in ND, the right to legislate is considered more important than education.
Leftists AKA communists AKA socialists are very clear in their beliefs.
They don’t like the right of the people to govern themselves.

Badger40 on May 24, 2011 at 6:19 PM

They don’t like the right of the people to govern themselves.

Badger40 on May 24, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Exactly right.

whbates on May 24, 2011 at 6:24 PM

All three branches of government appear to be abrogating their respective responsibilities.

fourdeucer on May 24, 2011 at 6:29 PM

So where should NJ get the money from? I got it, let’s defund the judiciary to help fund education.

mdenis39 on May 24, 2011 at 6:29 PM

If the state Constitution guarantees “thorough and efficient education”, why is a teacher’s union allowed?

malclave on May 24, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Hey oh!

WitchDoctor on May 24, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Christie needs to start an impeachication because this court ruling is a constitutional crisis, an affront to separation of powers.

joeindc44 on May 24, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Christie can just say if Obama can ignore the war powers act, then I can ignore a bunch of social political engineering justices. What are they going to do? Throw him in jail for contempt?

Rovin on May 24, 2011 at 6:34 PM

O.T.

Is anyone else experiencing extremely slow page loads & pages timing out? It is only on HA pages for me; everything else is lightning quick — as ever with Firefox.

hillbillyjim on May 24, 2011 at 6:35 PM

This happened here in Kansas a few years ago. Our schools were well enough funded that they were quite successful in education the students that wanted to be educated. But the court said more needed to be spent. End of discussion. Now we have a republican governor and I heard a story a few days ago that the court is squawking about funding again. I gess we’ll see what happens this time.

Keyser-Soze on May 24, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Judge Nap, on Fox earlier, said that by NJ’s Constitution it is legal. Probably the only state in the Union to be set up that way.

marinetbryant on May 24, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Maybe those social engeneering leftists in robes haven’t heard about the boondoggle their kind made years ago in St Louis-a Taj Mahal for yoots-total failure. Nice show place though. No measureable learning improvement – emptied the city of taxpayers, if I recall right. Some old folks need to help out here.

Don L on May 24, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Let’s see them enforce this ruling.

lorien1973 on May 24, 2011 at 6:40 PM

He should set up a vouvher system and put the money in it.

Keyser-Soze on May 24, 2011 at 6:36 PM

I lived in Johnson County about 25 yeaqrs.

davidk on May 24, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Keyser-Soze on May 24, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Was this the state that put Olympic sized swimming pools etc in inner city type schools & everything went to he!! & still noone was educated?
You see this in Indian schools here in ND & SD at Fort Yates.
The Indian rez schools get all kinds of $$.
And it’s going to waste.
Bcs a vast majority of Indian kids don’t want to be educated & their parents aren’t interested in having them educated.

Badger40 on May 24, 2011 at 6:43 PM

hillbillyjim on May 24, 2011 at 6:35 PM

No problems here.

davidk on May 24, 2011 at 6:43 PM

yeah, well, the law doesn’t apply to liberals and it’s applied harshly to conservatives…chiefly because conservatives play along in this charade.

Stop playing along, then they’ll stop taking advantage of us.

joeindc44 on May 24, 2011 at 6:47 PM

Notice how an “adequate” education is never defined? The only descriptions are, “there are funding shortfalls”, “we need more money”, “we need to invest more”, “these programs are underfunded”, etc.

I have never heard the definition of adequate, nor have I ever heard how much would be enough.

I guess, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there…

SouthernRoots on May 24, 2011 at 6:53 PM

JUST SAY NO!!!

landlines on May 24, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Judge Nap, on Fox earlier, said that by NJ’s Constitution it is legal. Probably the only state in the Union to be set up that way.

marinetbryant on May 24, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Similar problem in Kansas: Timeline of Events in School Finance Lawsuit, 1999 to Date

(I don’t know if the Kansas mess is due to their constitution.)

slickwillie2001 on May 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM

The legislature and governor need to push back. Whatever happened to courts just being there to interpret that law, not legislate from the bench? I am so tired of these power grabs.

But if the idiots in New Jersey vote in the people who tolerate this crap, they deserve what they get.

karenhasfreedom on May 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM

davidk on May 24, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Thx. Now everything’s 10-8. It’s been sporadic the last few hours.

hillbillyjim on May 24, 2011 at 6:57 PM

More money does not mean a great education. Compare the test scores between home schooled students and publicly educated students:

http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/2011/02/perhaps-homeschooling-parents-should-be.html

And to think home schoolers spend as little as $600.00 ANNUALLY for these type of results that have them performing at an 86% proficiency level vs a 50% proficiency level for publicly educated students.

Mandating more money for systems that are destined to fail because of federal regulations and special interests is just a waste of taxpayer money…it does nothing to provide excellence in education.

manateespirit on May 24, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Maybe Christie should take notes from liberal Democrat icon FDR and threaten to pack the New Jersey Supreme Court to get this changed. This is ridiculous.

Socratease on May 24, 2011 at 7:04 PM

We’ll be asked to bailout NJ next….

ladyingray on May 24, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Ok…..send the entire state budget to the Board of Education and then walk away. They got their $, judge. You fix the rest of it.

Limerick on May 24, 2011 at 7:11 PM

Just exactly what IS a thorough and efficient education anyway?

That such an ambiguous sack of nonsense was codified is absurd to begin with.

hillbillyjim on May 24, 2011 at 7:14 PM

thorough and efficient education anyway?

That such an ambiguous sack of nonsense was codified is absurd to begin with.

hillbillyjim on May 24, 2011 at 7:14 PM

One that has only your better interest in mind, regardless of your better interest.

Limerick on May 24, 2011 at 7:16 PM

ROFL…the bully is getting beat up by another bully imagine that.

unseen on May 24, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Gov. Christie simply disregards the NJ SC and forces a NJ Constitutional crisis. If the Court wants more money for education, let the court come up with it. Either that or the NJ legislature get’s the funds from the budget of the court. Or the voters of NJ keep re-electing those moron’s, then they deserve what they get.

TulsAmerican on May 24, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Yea, what’s the court going to do if Christie flips his middle finger at the judge, have him arrested?

CH on May 24, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Christie should tell the court – “You made your decision, now lets see you enforce it.”

GarandFan on May 24, 2011 at 7:33 PM

The underlying problem is the economy. If a state or city can’t pay its bills, then it could be overspending…it could be mismanagement of funds. But if you cut, and cut and cut and it still sucks, then it’s obviously not the spending that’s the problem.

If you lose $1000 dollars a year in income, you can only cut out so much fat until you get to the point where slashing your budget won’t keep you in your home or keep you fed. The government could set your taxes at 0%…won’t make any difference…you’re still losing $1000 a year. They could give you $200 a year to “stimulate” you….won’t make any difference…

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 24, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Yeah, this is where the line of legal reasoning, most famously championed by the “Strong Latina Woman,” (Obama’s mediocre AA appointee) that the courts are where “the law is made” hits the wall.

The right to delegate resources rests with the legislature subject to the approval of the executive.

The courts could, if they wanted to be pinko extremists, find damages for every kid in New Jersey. They cannot, however, direct the creation of entitlement programs.

That’s not a legal opinion (although it should be, if the law means anything), it’s a logistical reality.

HitNRun on May 24, 2011 at 7:58 PM

So where should NJ get the money from? I got it, let’s defund the judiciary to help fund education.

mdenis39 on May 24, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Exactly what I was thinking!

dominigan on May 24, 2011 at 8:07 PM

Well, I think Christie’s approach should be, “The court instructed the legislature to spend half-a-Bu-BILLION dollars it doesn’t have. Chew on that. Half-a-bu-BILLION dollars. Guess where that imaginary check is going to come from…”

birdhurd on May 24, 2011 at 8:43 PM

And this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Time for me to move.

This state will be bankrupt in 2 years.

njrob on May 24, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Time for me to move.

This state will be bankrupt in 2 years.

njrob on May 24, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Well if you like the cold, ND’s hiring.
Might be hard to find housing in the W. part of the state, but the rural areas still have lots of empty, habitable houses.
Just don’t come here to run a meth house!
LOL!

Badger40 on May 24, 2011 at 10:05 PM

What about the $100 million Mark Zuckerberg gave to the Newark schools?

rockmom on May 24, 2011 at 10:11 PM

since the New Jersey Supreme Court has arrogated to itself the power to appoint its own replacements without going to the Governor for appointment or the legislative confirmation process, they are self-perpetuating beyond most control of the public. They have also arrogated to themselves the ability to set specific budget amounts. The only avenue I can see to deal with this court is to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the NJ Supreme Court. Then they do not need individual trials or 2/3rds votes etc. etc. that impeachment would require. The people will then be in control again. If District Courts differ in rulings, just live with it until a better solution comes along but for right now, this court has to go.

KW64 on May 25, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Oh, that’s right. We have two equal branches of government underneath one supreme branch that always gets to order the other two around.
Unless, that is, your name is Obama. Then you can just do whatever you want.
I’d say just screw the court. Or pass legislation taking the judges pay away.

Tyrants need to be stood up to. Sooner or later someone has got to confront these runaway courts. Pass legislation redefining what the court can do. Impeach judges. It is getting ridiculous.

JellyToast on May 25, 2011 at 6:32 AM

Christie showed why he shouldn’t be President.

No balls when it matters.

JP1986UM on May 25, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Take it out of the court’s budget.

{^_^}

herself on May 25, 2011 at 1:55 PM