What the number one item in the Murphy-Guadagno debate should be tonight

By Stuart J. Moskovitz

Abbott Districts. This was a hairbrained idea created in 1985 by the New Jersey Supreme Court and defined in 1997 that determined that the Constitution required that each and every student in New Jersey must have an absolutely equal education. This wasn’t an issue of race or any other means by which we generally define the need for equal education. It was a determination that poorer school districts have less money to pay for education and therefore the State was required to assure that the poorer districts received state funding to equal the amount paid for education by local wealthier districts.

Some flaws were obvious from the beginning. 

1. The wealthier districts have an extremely wide range of spending on education per student, so there really is nothing to legitimately compare other than an average, meaning that if we wanted “equal” to mean the average, we would require the state to fund the “poorer” districts to a greater extent than about half of the “wealthier” districts spent on education.

2. There was no evidence that money alone would provide an “equal” education, the education required by the New Jersey Constitution.

3. There are some districts that for reasons any sociologist could have told the New Jersey Supreme Court, would never provide an equal education no matter how much money was thrown at them.

4. This was feel good legislation. Feel good legislation is when we are pretending to create a solution to a problem so that we “feel good” about it, even though deep down we know it is not a solution, but this means we don’t have to actually solve the problem because “we tried.”

5. This was JUDICIAL legislation, where the judiciary usurps the power of the legislature, where the unelected judges of the New Jersey Supreme Court decide statewide spending policy, something reserved by the Constitution to the other two branches of government.

So the Abbott decisions were extraordinarily terrible decisions right at the outset.

Now, had this actually educated the students in those districts, we could all celebrate. We would all celebrate if over the last 32 years more students coming out of those districts became productive citizens, starting businesses, working as professionals and paying taxes, reducing the need for criminal courts, reducing the need for prisons, reducing the need for welfare and medicare and other social services. That would have been fantastic. Only someone on the extreme right could quarrel with that.

But it didn’t.

There is no evidence that a single dollar of Abbott funding, that all of it together, enhanced the education of students in these districts to any measurable degree.

Throwing money at a social problem has never solved the problem. It did not here either. All this was, was a massive redistribution of wealth, taking state tax money paid for by everyone, mostly the wealthy, and distributing it to the poorer districts to minimize the need for people living in those districts to pay property tax to fund education.

If that is the goal, fine, it was accomplished.

But what we have here is a New Jersey Supreme Court justified failure to comply with the Constitutional requirement that there be equal education in New Jersey. There is not. There is not because the state Supreme Court announced over the last 32 years that the Constitution doesn’t mean equal education when it says equal education; it merely means equal funding.

They are wrong. They have been wrong for the last 32 years.

What is needed now, and this is where November’s election comes in and tonight’s debate, is a Commissioner of Education who will bring an action before the Supreme Court armed with facts and statistics showing that the Abbott funding has not accomplished anything and that the State is still in violation of the Constitution because it is not providing equal education, only equal funding. There is one candidate, Phil Murphy, who believes taxes are the answer to everything. As the Abbott situation shows, that is antiquated and false. One candidate, Kim Guadagno, is experienced in state government, knows what works and doesn’t work, and is most likely to appoint a Commissioner of Education who will act to take the burden off of the non-Abbott districts who are now providing hundreds of millions of dollars to be thrown down the drain so that the Supreme Court can feel good about itself.

I wish that was discussed tonight, but if it is not, then everyone reading this (most likely from non-Abbott school districts) should remember what is at stake in November.

It’s time we correct a thirty-two year old very expensive mistake.

Stuart J. Moskovitz, Esq, is a fomer mayor of Manalapan

Posted: October 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: 2017 NJ Gubernatorial Politics, Kim Guadagno, Monmouth County News, New Jersey, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “What the number one item in the Murphy-Guadagno debate should be tonight”

  1. Steve Adams said at 5:55 pm on October 18th, 2017:

    Abbott school districts are also an opportunity to fix a combination of problems.

    We spend $8B on school aid with 58% or $4.6B going to Abbott districts. 23% of our students or 300,000 are in Abbott Districts.

    If NJ reduced the number of students getting huge state aid assistance by just 25% that could free up $10B over ten years.

    If NJ shared that $10B in savings by giving school vouchers to students that moved to other public or private schools, that would leave most of the $10B to split between paying down pension liability and NJ tax reductions.

    Students would get educations, Abbott districts would shrink and become more manageable, teachers would get pension payments, and taxpayers would get Billions in tax reductions.
    Everyone could win.

  2. Proud Republican said at 8:16 pm on October 18th, 2017:

    No one wants to truthfully broach the real reasons why inner-city schools are always under performing and that is a lack of parental involvement, lack of discipline and a culture that frowns upon education. All of the money in the world cannot make up for that.

  3. Agree, Proud, said at 11:38 pm on October 18th, 2017:

    but at this late date, I think the two things she can win on are: Say NO to becoming a sanctuary state, say NO to increases in all taxes- “just say NO to Murphy!”

  4. Chaim Nutzman said at 1:44 pm on October 19th, 2017:

    Just one issue? Guess you don’t care about Republican corruption. A Kim win would be viewed as an outright vindication of the shame of Christie.

  5. Steve Adams said at 1:55 pm on October 19th, 2017:

    Dear “Proud Republican”- I agree that all the money in the world would not fix the Abbotts. I have to disagree with the generalization that parental involvement and culture doom every student in the Abbotts.
    Thats why I suggest offering vouchers to the parents that do care and want a better education and life for their kids. Once some kids start doing well, other parents will start demanding the same quality for their kids, in the alternative schools and more importantly in the public schools. The public schools will become accountable and will have to compete or face more and more students leaving for a quality education elsewhere and taking some of their NJ State Aid with them.
    Until an option for an education exists, there is nothing to motivate the caring parents to demand the education their kids are guaranteed in our state constitution. We need to fix this, and many or our societies biggest issues will automatically be reduced and become more manageable.

  6. Vouchersfail said at 5:19 am on October 20th, 2017:

    Vouchers are a proven cost ineffective way to educate. School test scores measure the “health” of a community- next time you have a fever, the answer isn’t buying a new thermometer because you don’t like what yours is saying. Fix the problems that affect children before they even go into the school and you will get better results on tests.

  7. Steve Adams said at 1:35 pm on October 20th, 2017:

    Dear “Vouchersfail”,
    I’m pretty sure you must belong to the flat earth society. You are wrong. Only the teachers union disagrees with school choice, and they do it because they place teacher union dues ahead of children, taxpayers, and pretty much everything else.

    Spending about $50,000 per year on students in some of the Abbott districts is what is insane. A huge number of student could have better outcomes with vouchers to attend functioning schools that would cost much less.