N.J. Panel Recommends Expanding Number of 'Special Needs' Districts
An advisory panel to the New Jersey board of education has recommended that poor rural school districts be considered for designation as “special needs” districts, a move that could obligate the state to provide for those rural systems intensive support similar to what it gives its poorest urban districts.
The June 15 recommendation by the state board’s legal committee represents a significant development in an eight-year legal effort by a group of poor, rural districts. They have argued that they need intensive state help—including more money—similar to that received by 31 urban districts as a result of the ongoing Abbott v. Burke litigation. Decisions in that case require New Jersey to fund its poorest urban districts at the levels of its wealthiest districts, spend billions on school facilities, and provide extra services such as full-day preschool to offset the effects of poverty.
Frederick A. Jacob, a Millville, N.J., lawyer representing the rural districts in the case, known as Bacon v. New Jersey State Department of Education , said the recommendation is important because it makes clear that smaller rural districts can be as educationally needy as big-city districts. “It’s now decided once and for all that poverty is poverty,” he said in an interview. “It’s poverty that creates...
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