Governor Christie’s reduction in school aid touched the third rail of New Jersey’s budget the Property Tax Relief Fund, most of which is dedicated to school funding according to a court-approved school funding formula. As past governors have experienced altering school funding in N.J. raises the specter of violating the state constitution’s “thorough and efficient” education clause according to the court. This policy rigidity is just one of the unintended consequences of the 1976 decision in which the court remade school funding and the state’s fiscal map. In spite of billions spent on the state’s poorest school districts outcomes have barely budged.
A case brought by the Education Law Center argues that Christie’s actions violated the state’s constitution. The court is hearing arguments and will decide whether Christie’s $1.7 billion reduction is permissible or must be restored.