The Education Law Center, a New Jersey-based advocacy organization for public schools, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the districts, which claim that compared to other New Jersey districts they have been underfunded by about $18 million since 2011. One district said that more funding would allow the district’s preschool program to expand, while another said it would reinstate extracurricular programs and classes like art and music.
About 8 percent of students in New Jersey attend rural schools, although the rural student population has increased in the past few years, according to a recent report from the Rural School and Community Trust. More more than 16 percent of rural students in the state qualify for special education, one of the highest rates in the country.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in states like Mississippi, where more than 50 percent of students attend rural schools. Twenty urban and rural school districts across Mississippi have joined a lawsuit against that state asking for funds that are owed due to underfunding. Mississippi has only fully funded its schools twice since 1997, the year the current school funding formula was adopted.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.