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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rosalie Bacon v. New Jersey State Department of Education

03-14-08 A-2460-05T1

Eight rural and poor school districts appeal from a
decision of the New Jersey State Board of Education (Board)
which, although finding their circumstances mirrored those of
the Abbott urban school districts presently receiving remedial
relief in accordance with a series of Supreme Court decisions,
nevertheless declined to require the same relief for appellants.
holding the Board lacked jurisdiction to do so. The Board
instead directed the Commissioner, Department of Education, to
design and conduct a needs assessment of each appellant
district, which the Commissioner failed to do, opting to await
the fate of pending legislative proposals, since enacted into
law.
Recognizing the judiciary's stated preference for
legislative and executive solutions to remedy constitutional
violations, especially where, as here, legislation promising
comprehensive and systemic relief has just been enacted, we
found no warrant to interfere at this time with the approach
ordered by the Board. We also found no inconsistency in
ordering the Commissioner to promptly proceed with a
particularized needs assessment of appellant districts as a
integral step in the Board's ultimate determination, on remand,
whether the needs so identified by the Department, in light of
proven educational deficits already found by the Board, will be
met by the Act's new funding formula, so as to afford students
in the Bacon districts the thorough and efficient education to
which they are constitutionally entitled.